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Theresa May slams MPs for failing to back her ‘better’ Brexit deal

Theresa May donned a coronavirus mask in the Commons today as she raged at MPs for failing to back her ‘better’ Brexit deal last year.

The ex-PM was a lone figure using a face covering as she joined the debate over Boris Johnson‘s trade agreement with the EU.

And she only ditched the mask to deliver an excoriating rebuke to Sir Keir Starmer for playing games when she had a package in place that would have kept the UK more closely aligned to Brussels.

Her intervention came shortly before MPs voted to overwhelmingly support Mr Johnson’s deal by 521 votes to 73, a majority of 448. 

The agreement still has to be debated and voted on by the House of Lords and that will happen this evening before the Queen is then asked to rubber stamp it late tonight.

Mrs May took the covering off to deliver her assessment of the deal

Theresa May was a lone figure wearing a mask in the Commons chamber, but took it off to deliver her assessment of the deal before it passed through the Commons this afternoon

Mrs May delivered an excoriating rebuke to Sir Keir Starmer for playing games when she had a package in place that would have kept the UK more closely aligned to Brussels

Mrs May delivered an excoriating rebuke to Sir Keir Starmer for playing games when she had a package in place that would have kept the UK more closely aligned to Brussels

Mrs May said the pact gave the EU what it wanted with no tariffs or quotes on goods, but ‘disappointingly’ lacked any provision for the UK’s critical services sector.

However, she confirmed that she will be voting in favour, citing ‘very important’ security arrangements. 

In her speech she said: ‘I welcome this deal and I will be supporting it today and I welcome the fact that the official opposition will be supporting this deal, but I did listen with some incredulity to what the leader of the Opposition said.

‘He said he wanted a better deal. He had the opportunity in early 2019 when there was the opportunity of a better deal on the table and he voted against it, so I will take no lectures from the leader of the Opposition on this deal.’

‘Central to this deal the PM has said is the tariff free and quota free trade arrangements subject of course to rules of origin requirements. It would have been unforgiveable for the EU not to have allowed tariff free and quota free access given that they signed up to that in the political declaration signed with my Government in November 2018.

‘One of the reasons for supporting this deal is the security arrangements that have been put in place which are very important.’

Mrs May said she was ‘disappointed’ about the deal’s approach to services, telling the Commons: ‘It is no longer the case that UK service providers will have the automatic right of access to provide services across the EU – they will have to abide by the individual rules of a state.

‘I understand if you’re a lawyer advising on UK law in the Czech Republic you will have to be resident, and in Austria you will have not to be resident – just as an example of the difference of those rules.’

Mrs May said the ‘key area’ is financial services and she pledged in 2018 to work to get a ‘truly ground-breaking’ deal for this sector, adding: ‘Sadly it has not been achieved.

‘We have a deal in trade which benefits the EU but not a deal in services which would have benefited the UK.’

Mrs May said the treaty is clear future negotiation on these points are possible, adding: ‘I hope the Government will go to that negotiation with alacrity and vigour.’

Opening the Commons debate, Mr Johnson insisted that Britain had 'taken back control' by cutting ties with the bloc, urging an end to the 'rancour and recrimination' that have soured the past four years since the referendum

Opening the Commons debate, Mr Johnson insisted that Britain had ‘taken back control’ by cutting ties with the bloc, urging an end to the ‘rancour and recrimination’ that have soured the past four years since the referendum

This afternoon’s vote means Mr Johnson is now standing on the threshold of history as he tries to close the book on four years of bitter political wrangling.

Meanwhile, the official copy of the hard-fought 1,200 page trade deal has arrived in London on an RAF jet after being signed by a smiling EU commission chief Ursula von der Leyen in Brussels this morning.

The PM is set to do the honours in Downing Street this afternoon as he finally brings the curtain down on the Brexit saga which has dominated UK politics since the EU referendum in 2016.

Earlier, a clearly jubilant Mr Johnson delivered an upbeat message to the Commons about the country’s opportunities now the UK has ‘taken back control’.

Opening the Commons debate on his deal, Mr Johnson urged an end to the ‘rancour and recrimination’ that have soured political life in recent years.

He said decades of tensions with the EU had been ‘resolved’ so Britain can be its closest friend, a free-trading power, and a ‘liberal, outward-looking force for good’. He suggested far from trade being hit by leaving the single market and customs union it should mean ‘even more’ business being done.

‘Having taken back control of our money, our borders, our laws and our waters by leaving the European Union on January 31, we now seize this moment to forge a fantastic new relationship with our European neighbours based on free trade and friendly co-operation,’ Mr Johnson said.

‘At the heart of this Bill is one of the biggest free trade agreements in the world.’

The passage of the deal through the Commons was seen as a formality thanks to the PM’s 80-seat majority and the fact Sir Keir Starmer told Labour MPs they had to vote for it.

Sir Keir ordered his MPs to support the plan as it is better than No Deal - even though dozens of his own side are expected to rebel

Sir Keir ordered his MPs to support the plan as it is better than No Deal – even though dozens of his own side are expected to rebel

However, the Labour leader suffered a major rebellion as 36 Labour MPs, including former shadow Cabinet ministers Diane Abbott and Barry Gardiner, defied their leader’s instruction and chose to abstain.

Only one Labour MP voted against the deal, Bell Ribeiro-Addy, while former Labour leader and now independent MP Jeremy Corbyn abstained. Some 162 Labour MPs voted for the deal along with 359 Tories.

Two junior members of the Labour frontbench, Helen Hayes and Tonia Antoniazzi, quit their roles after they abstained.

In a tough message to would-be mutineers, Sir Keir had said this morning: ‘Those that vote ”no” are voting for No Deal.’

Some 44 SNP MPs, 11 Lib Dems and 8 DUP MPs were among those to have voted against the deal.

Ex-PM Theresa May had delivered a stinging attack saying her agreement with the EU – repeatedly rejected by the House in 2019 before she was evicted from No10 – had been ‘better’ as she berated Sir Keir for failing to support it.   


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