I was pleased to support the legislation which gave legal standing to the Trade & Cooperation Agreement which the government had negotiated with the European Union. The legislation passed through the House of Commons by 521 votes to 73.
The UK actually left the European Union on 31st January 2020, having signed the Withdrawal Agreement and Northern Ireland Protocol in advance of that. The legislation passed on 30th December 2020 was about our future relationship with the European Union, including trade arrangements. The transitional period which we had agreed with the EU ended on 31st December 2020 so it was important to get this legislation through by then.
The Trade & Cooperation Agreement ran to 1246 pages, so it was comprehensive to say the least. It covered trade, transport, fisheries, law enforcement and so much more. The UK government was determined to secure tariff-free and quota-free access for our goods into the EU and this was agreed. The government was also determined to bring control of our laws in this respect back to the UK and this also was secured, with there being no loss of UK sovereignty involved as a result of this Agreement. Quite the reverse, in that the European Court of Justice will have no further role in the UK. I was part of a team which used the services of a group of lawyers to check the facts and details and we were satisfied that this is the case.
To some extent, the Agreement is a working document in that the Withdrawal Agreement set up a Joint Committee, made up of UK politicians and EU officials, which can agree certain changes. This is important because there is still some work to do with regards to the arrangement for services industries and also Northern Ireland, and the Agreement reached regarding fisheries will improve in our favour over the next few years. In addition, if either party becomes dissatisfied with the Trade & Cooperation Agreement, they can end it at a year’s notice.
The whole issue of our membership of the European Union, and the European Economic Community (EEC) before it, has been a controversial one. We joined the EEC on 1st January 1973 after the most slender majorities in the House of Commons voted in favour of it. Our membership was confirmed at a referendum in 1975, but the changes brought in by the EU over the years made our membership of that body even more controversial, which is why the government allowed a referendum on the matter in 2016.
Now we have left the EU, it important to stress that we have not left Europe, nor have we become enemies of the EU states – far from it. We will be working, cooperating and trading with our neighbours on the continent in very many ways and I look forward to our relationship strengthening as we go forward.
Also, while negotiating this agreement, the government has rolled over a number of the trade agreements which the EU has with other countries. And we are also successfully negotiating our own trade deals, and have concluded agreements with Canada and Japan, for example.
We left the European Union on 31st January 2020 and left the transition period at the end of last year. Many people wanted us to leave with a deal, and that is what Boris Johnson secured. So we have a trade deal in place with the EU which allows for tariff-free, quota-free access for our goods going to the EU and the EU’s goods coming here. The European Court of Justice will play no further role in the UK and the deal brings about no loss of UK sovereignty. And if we find the arrangements do not suit us, we can give a year’s notice to end them.
In addition to this trade deal, we have also agreed over 60 trade deals with the rest of the world including Japan, Canada and Turkey, worth over £867bn. In 2021, we will be adding to the deals and negotiations already underway with the US, New Zealand and Australia. A full list of trade agreements can be found here: www.gov.uk/guidance/uk-trade-agreements-with-non-eu-countries