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uk bill

The EU has provisionally approved its trade deal with the UK, meaning it will be used as the rulebook for UK-EU trade from 1 January 2021.

The free trade agreement was announced by European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and UK prime minister Boris Johnson on Christmas Eve.

EU ambassadors have agreed to the deal on a provisional basis before EU MEPs have a chance to ratify the it next year, the BBC reports

Formal completion

At a meeting of ambassadors in Brussels, the 27 member states gave their support for the 1,246-page treaty to be “provisionally applied”.

The Guardian reports that the European parliament is delaying its vote to February or March when it is hoped that MEPs will return to Strasbourg to complete the formal EU ratification process.

MPs debate online

In the UK, MPs will vote on the deal tomorrow, with more than three-quarters of MPs expected to dial in remotely, according to the Times.

The Commons speaker urged MPs to stay at home and made it clear those present in person will not be given priority to speak. It is the first time since 1998 that parliament has been recalled to rush through legislation during the Christmas recess.

Both the Commons and the Lords will sit for a single day to pass the Future Relationship Bill.

ERG support

Boris Johnson’s deal has been given the thumbs up by the hardline European Research Group (ERG), the Express reports.

The ERG recommended its members vote in favour of the Brexit agreement after consultation with lawyers.

ITV political editor Robert Peston tweeted: “ERG officers have recommended members vote for the deal. This is what Boris Johnson wanted for Christmas. It means his EU (future relationship) Bill will pass with zero controversy”.

Labour split

Sir Keir Starmer is facing a rebellion over his decision to back Boris Johnson’s deal, reports the BBC.

The Labour leader has called the deal “thin” and not what the government promised, but says it is better than no deal.

He will order his MPs to vote for the deal in the Commons, ensuring it should pass into law in time for the UK’s exit from EU rules.

Critics led by ex-shadow Chancellor John McDonnell are urging him not to back the “rotten” deal.

Heseltine urges abstention

Other opponents include Conservative grandee Lord Heseltine, who has urged MPs and peers to abstain when voting on the deal, warning it will inflict “lasting damage” on the UK, reports the New European.

The former deputy prime minister said he would “in no way share the endorsement of the legislation”, but that he would not vote against it because the consequences of a no-deal would be even graver.

Bumps ahead

Cabinet minister Michael Gove told the BBC there will be “bumpy moments” for UK businesses and travellers as they get to grips with new EU rules.

He said there would be “practical and procedural changes” when the Brexit transition period ends on 31 December.