UK Parliament Approves EU Withdrawal Bill [Update]
(Adds comment from UK E&P)
UK members of parliament approved the European Union withdrawal bill December 30, just over 24 hours before the UK's transition period ends. From January 1, the former EU member state will be trading with its nearest partners on new terms and conditions. Many other aspects of life will also be different in the UK from now on, but tariffs and quotas will not be imposed on trade, which had been a major worry. And energy traders on either side of the English Channel welcomed the lack of disruption that should result.
The vote was a convincing majority, with 521 for and 73 against. The Labour Party officially threw its weight behind it: although it said it was "thin," leader Keir Starmer said it was better than no deal. Although a "no deal" was politically unlikely, the two sides continued their negotiations until December 24, with hard haggling over the division of species of fish that may be caught. However the Scottish Nationalist Party had said it would not support the bill.
The EU (Future Relationship) Bill will now pass to the upper house of parliament, the Lords, for the next stage in the process. Assuming that it also grants approval, it will then be passed into law when the monarch gives Royal Assent.
The agreement was signed by the European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, and one copy has been flown to the UK for the UK prime minister Boris Johnson to sign. Members of the European Union's parliament will vote on it retrospectively in early 2021.
Speaking December 24, von der Leyen said: “It was worth fighting for this deal because we now have a fair and balanced agreement with the UK, which will protect our European interests, ensure fair competition, and provide much needed predictability for our fishing communities. Finally, we can leave Brexit behind us and look to the future. Europe is now moving on.”
Johnson told parliament that achieving the agreement disproved his critics' claim, as the UK was both having its cake and eating it. It had retained full sovereignty with the EU while also having a free trade agreement with the EU and being free to negotiate free trade agreements with any other countries it chose. His critics had said one or the other only was possible.
UK upstream welcomes the deal
The UK upstream industry group OGUK has welcomed the deal, saying it has "consistently stated that a deal would be the best outcome for our industry. We therefore welcome the agreement and thank both the UK and EU for their efforts in securing this trade deal. We continue to work through the details with our members, the government, and the broader business community to ensure that every opportunity is taken to minimise and manage any potential disruption to goods and services in the energy sector, as well as limiting inefficiencies and red tape as changes are implemented."