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UK-EU Trade Agreement

PM’s statement to the House of Commons on the UK-EU deal

Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke in the House of Commons on the deal agreed with the European Union, on 30 December 2020.

Transcript (from https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/prime-ministers-opening-statement-to-the-house-of-commons-on-the-uk-eu-deal-30-december-2020 )

Thank you Mr Speaker, can I begin by thanking you and the House authorities and all your staff and their hard work in allowing us to meet today, and can I also welcome the outstanding news that AstraZeneca is now rolling out a new UK made vaccine approved by the MHRA that offers the hope to millions in this country and around the world, Mr Speaker I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time,

and having taken back control of our money, our borders, our laws and our waters by leaving the European Union on Jan 31st, we now seize the moment to forge a fantastic new relationship with our European neighbours, based on free trade and friendly co-operation.

And at the heart of this Bill is one of the biggest free trade agreements in the world, a comprehensive Canada-style deal, worth over £660 billion, which, if anything, should allow our companies to do even more business with our European friends, safeguarding millions of jobs and livelihoods in our UK and across the continent.

In less than 48 hours, we will leave the EU single market and the customs union, as we promised and yet British exporters will not face a sudden thicket of trade barriers, but rather, for the first time in the history of EU agreements, zero tariffs and zero quotas.

And just as we have avoided trade barriers, so we have also ensured the UK’s full control of our laws and our regulations and there is a vital symmetry between those two achievements, because the central purpose of this Bill is to accomplish something that the British people always knew in their hearts could be done, but which we were continually told was impossible, we were told we could not have our cake and eat it, do you remember how often we were told that Mr Speaker, namely that we could trade and cooperate with our European neighbours on the closest terms of friendship and goodwill, whilst retaining sovereign control of our laws and our national destiny.

And that unifying thread runs through every clause of this Bill, it embodies our vision – shared with our European neighbours – of a new relationship between Britain and the EU as sovereign equals, joined by friendship, commerce, history, interests and values, while respecting one another’s freedom of action and recognising that we have nothing to fear if we sometimes choose to do things differently and we have much to gain from the healthy stimulus of competition. And this Bill demonstrates therefore how Britain can be at once European and sovereign.

And I think you’ll agree Mr Speaker our negotiators accomplished their feat with astonishing speed. It took nearly 8 years for the Uruguay Round of world trade talks to produce a deal, and five years for the EU to reach a trade agreement with Canada, six for Japan.

We have done this in less than a year, in the teeth of a pandemic, and we have pressed ahead with this task, resisting all the calls for delay, Mr Speaker precisely because creating certainty about our future provides the best chance of beating Covid and bouncing back even more strongly next year. And that was our objective.

So I hope the House will join me in commending my Noble Friend Lord Frost and every member of his team for their skill, their mastery and their perseverance in translating our vision into a practical agreement. And let me also pay tribute to President Ursula von der Leyen, Michel Barnier and all our European friends for their pragmatism and foresight and for their understanding that it is profoundly in the interests of the EU to live alongside a prosperous, contented and sovereign United Kingdom.

The House understands the significance of the fact that the basis of this agreement is not EU law but international law, so there is no direct effect, the EU law will no longer have any special status in the UK and there is no jurisdiction for the European Court of Justice. We will be able to design our own standards and regulations, And Mr Speaker the laws that this House of Commons passes will be interpreted – and I know this is of keen interest to honourable and right honourable members – solely by British judges sitting in British courts.

We will have opportunity to devise new ways to spur and encourage the flourishing sectors in which this country leads the world, from green energy and life sciences to synthetic biology. We will be free Mr Speaker of EU state aid rules, We’ll be able to decide where and how we level up across our country with new jobs and new hope, including with freeports and new green industrial zones of a kind Im sure he’d approve of.

And if, in using our new freedoms, either Britain or the EU believes it is somehow being unfairly undercut, then subject to independent third party arbitration – and provided the measures are proportionate – either of us can decide, as sovereign equals, to protect our consumers.

But this treaty explicitly envisages that any such action should be infrequent and it banishes the old concepts of uniformity and harmonisation in favour of the right to make our own regulatory choices and deal with the consequences.

And Mr Speaker, every modern free trade agreement includes reciprocal commitments designed to prevent distortions of trade and the true significance of the agreement embodied in this Bill is that there is no role for the European Court of Justice, no ratchet clause on labour or environmental standards and no dynamic alignment with the EU State Aid regime – or indeed any other aspect of EU law.

In every respect, we have recovered our freedom of action. We will be free of the strictures of the Common Agricultural Policy, We’ll be able to conserve our landscapes and support our farmers exactly as we choose. And on Friday – for the first time 50 years – on Friday the UK will once again be recognised as an independent coastal state, regaining control of our waters, righting the wrong that was done by the Common Fisheries Policy throughout our EU Membership.

And of course, I’ve always recognised Mr Speaker that this was going to be a difficult period for our European friends and partners, because they’ve been fishing in these waters for decades if not centuries and at first – as the House will know – they sought an adjustment period of 14 years, but our negotiators whittled that down to five and a half years, during which the UK’s share – in that five and a half years – the UK’s share of our fish in our waters will rise from over half today to around two thirds.

And of course we would like to have done this more quickly, but it’s also true that once the adjustment period comes to an end, there will be no limit Mr speaker – other than the limits placed by the needs of science and conservation – on our ability to make use of our marine wealth, and 15 per cent of the EU’s historic catch from our waters will be returned to this country next year alone. And as I say to prepare our fishing communities for that moment, we will invest £100 million in a programme to modernise their fleets and the fish processing industry,

Restoring Mr Speaker a great British industry to the eminence that it deserves, levelling up communities across the UK – particularly and including in Scotland Where their interests in my view have been neglected for too long.

So I do find it extraordinary that on the eve of this great opportunity the declared position of the Scottish National nationalist Party is to hand control – with a small n – is to hand control of the very waters we have just reclaimed straight back to the EU. That is their policy Mr Speaker. And they plan to ensnare Scotland’s fishing fleet in the dragnets of the Common Fisheries Policy all over again. And, in the meantime, Mr Speaker – guess what they are going to do today – they are going to vote today for a “No Deal Brexit”, proving once and for all, that the interests of Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland are best served by a One Nation party serving One United Kingdom.

Mr Speaker, this deal was negotiated by a big team, and he should know this, from every part of our United Kingdom, and it serves the whole of the UK, not least by protecting the integrity of the United Kingdom single internal market and Northern Ireland’s place within it.