Britain, EU sign Brexit trade deal on eve of transition deadline

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Dec. 30 (UPI) — British lawmakers overwhelmingly passed the Brexit trade agreement with the European Union on Wednesday, the day before the end of the formal transition period.

Parliament passed the trade deal by a vote of 521-73 and Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the compromise will usher in a “fantastic new relationship” with the bloc.

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The historic agreement was reached late last week after many months of stalled negotiations and pessimism in recent weeks that there was a deal to be made before the end of the transition period at midnight Thursday.

“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,” Johnson said in a statement.

“For the first time in the history of EU agreements, [Britain will face] zero tariffs and zero quotas. And just as we have avoided trade barriers, so we have also ensured [Britain’s] full control of our laws and our regulations,” he said.

The opposition Labor Party lost key members during Wednesday’s vote.

As Labor leader Keir Starmer pushed members to vote for the deal as a show of unity, Shadow Cabinet Office Minister Helen Hayes and multiple other party officers resigned.

Hayes complained that lawmakers had little time to digest and full text of the agreement, and blamed Johnson for “brinksmanship” negotiating tactics.

“That is nothing short of a national disgrace, a contempt for this Parliament and an insult to every citizen of [Britain] that MPs here are elected to represent, the complexity and diversity of whose views and experiences cannot possibly be given voice in such a short amount of time,” Hayes said in a statement.

The agreement was signed by the EU on a provisional basis Wednesday, so that it can take effect on Friday after the transition period ends at midnight Thursday. The deal still needs, and is expected to receive, full approval from European Parliament next month.

“The agreement that we signed today is the result of months of intense negotiations in which the European Union has displayed an unprecedented level of unity,” EU Council President Charles Michel said in a statement.

“It is a fair and balanced agreement that fully protects the fundamental interests of the European Union and creates stability and predictability for citizens and companies.”