Boris Johnson urges MPs to back 'historic' Brexit trade deal

Boris Johnson will urge MPs to open a new chapter in the national story, by backing his post-Brexit trade deal with the EU in a Commons vote on Wednesday.

Mr Johnson will state that the Brexit trade deal agreed on Christmas Eve represents "not a rupture but a resolution" of relations between the UK and Europe.

Mr Johnson is expected to say: "The central purpose of this bill is to accomplish something which the British people always knew in their hearts could be done, but which we were told was impossible - 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."

The government is hoping to pass the EU Future Relationship Bill through parliament at 'record breaking speed', finalising all stages of the process in the House of Commons and House of Lords in a single day.

The 11th hour deal, agreed with Brussels last week, after almost a year of contentious and often frosty talks, outlines a new business and security relationship between the UK and its biggest trading partner.

The Commons is expected to spend five hours debating the 80-page bill, then the House of Lords will debate late into the evening.

If the bill is passed by Parliament the UK-EU trade agreement will come into effect after 11pm on Thursday evening.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer - who campaigned to remain in the EU has said the "thin" agreement does not do enough to protect jobs, the environment and workers' rights.

However, despite objections from leading members of his own party, including former shadow chancellor John McDonnell, Clive Lewis and Ben Bradshaw, who have called on him to oppose it, he will order his MPs to vote for it, as the only alternative at this stage would be a no-deal exit, which he argues would be even more damaging to the UK economy.

The opposition are also seeking amendments to the bill that would require the government to provide twice-yearly economic impact assessments of the trading relationship.

Meanwhile, Mr Johnson, in his speech will add: "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 is expected to tell MPs.

He will stress that the UK intends to 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".

While the debate is going on in Westminster, the deal itself will be signed in Brussels by European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel before being flown to London for the prime minister to add his signature.

The European Parliament has begun its scrutiny of the agreement but will not get a chance to ratify it before the UK leaves the EU single market and customs union at midnight on Thursday.

The deal has, however, been given the unanimous backing of ambassadors from the 27 nations and the member states gave their written approval on Tuesday.