London: Boris Johnson will tell MPs that Britain will be a better friend to Europe outside of the single market than in it, as he won backing from hardline Brexiteers for the trade deal he struck on Christmas Eve.
The British Prime Minister, who headed the winning Vote Leave campaign in 2016, will ask the Commons to pass the EU (Future Relationship) Bill in time for Britain's historic departure from the European Union on January 1.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he will use Brexit to overhaul the tax system. Credit:Telegraph pool
He will hit out at his critics who said he could not strike the deal in a year in which Britain has also struggled with one of Europe's worst coronavirus outbreaks.
"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 calls for delay, precisely because creating certainty about our future provides the best chance of beating COVID and bouncing back even more strongly next year," he will say.
But he will say that leaving is not a "rupture" but a "resolution", acknowledging that the UK has always been a reluctant member of the EU.
Fishing rights had been a hangup between the UK and EU. Fisherman Nicolas Bishop works on the Boulogne sur Mer based trawler “Jeremy Florent II” in Boulogne-sur-Mer, northern France.Credit:AP
"First we stood aloof, then we became a half-hearted, sometimes obstructive member of the EU," Johnson will say.
"Now, with this Bill, we shall be a friendly neighbour – the best friend and ally the EU could have – working hand-in-glove whenever our values and interests coincide while fulfilling the sovereign wish of the British people to live under their own laws, made by their own elected Parliament."
Hardline Brexiteers who opposed the deal sought by Theresa May and eventually replaced her in Downing Street with Johnson gave their blessing to the deal ahead of the five-hour debate.
A star chamber of legal experts formed by once-powerful but now symbolic internal faction the European Research Group (ERG) said the deal preserved the UK's sovereignty.
Leader of the Labour Party Sir Keir Starmer may face his first revolt.Credit:Getty
"I love it when a plan comes together," said Steve Baker, the Tory MP who until this year led the ERG.
But the Labour opposition, which formally backed Remain during the referendum, is split with several high-profile MPs set to defy Leader Keir Starmer's order to back the deal.
One of those is Diane Abbott who was a frontbencher when Jeremy Corbyn was leader.
"I will not be voting for Boris's Brexit deal," she said.
"Like many Labour MPs, I was amazed that the Labour leader Keir Starmer announced that we were going to vote for the deal when nobody on the Labour side had actually seen it.
Diane Abbott plans to vote against the Brexit trade agreement.Credit:Simon Dawson
"Now we have seen the deal, I believe that it will surely unravel and Labour should not be endorsing it," the MP for the London constituency for Hackney North and Stoke Newington said.
Other Labour frontbenchers were undecided, meaning Starmer could face resignations from the shadow ministry – his first serious rebellion since becoming replacing Corbyn as leader.
Significantly for Labour MPs representing seats which voted heavily to Remain, the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party have said they will vote against the bill.
Their votes will not be enough to stymie the bill but will allow candidates at the next election to contrast their opposition to Labour's support.
The European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and the European Council President Charles Michel will sign the treaty on Thursday evening AEDT before it is flown to London where Johnson will sign it at Number 10.
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