03:49 GMT24 January 2021
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    The UK Parliament convened this Wednesday to debate and vote on the country's post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union that was agreed on Christmas Eve, just one week before the end of the transition period.

    However, concerns remain over the bill being rushed through by MP’s in an effort to beat the transition deadline. Critics believe that not enough time has been allowed for debating – the SNP are amongst those opposed to the legislation and have already signalled their intentions to vote against it.

    Sputnik spoke with political commentator John Whitby to find out what he thinks about the latest Brexit developments

    Sputnik: Do you expect MPs to approve the EU-UK Brexit bill in the House of Commons today? And what are your thoughts on the Brexit deal?

    John Whitby: Yes, I think they will. I'll go back to the last time you asked me about the Brexit deal. I said then that I felt we were being played. That it was like the script from a poor soap opera where they're going to argue and argue and argue. And then at the last possible minute, oh, look, we've managed to come to this deal. And I think that's exactly what we've got. I think this has been played out. I don't think the deal is particularly horrendous. But I don't think it's actually as good as it should have been.

    Sputnik: Are there concerns over the bill being rushed through the House of Commons today?

    JW: Yes, I've only managed to pick at it because there are 1,263 pages, including appendices on this bill. And there's no way that it's going to be looked at in detail, it really needs to make a proper judgment on impact.

    Sputnik: What are your thoughts on critics such as the SNP, who have already signalled their intention to vote against the bill?

    JW: I hate to say this to a Scotsman, but I think they'd have voted against it, whatever it was. There are problems with the bill, I'm not happy with it. And I think if I was in a situation where I was in Parliament, I'd be looking at it and literally saying there's not enough time to put a vote on this at the moment.

    This needs to have a good few weeks looking at it in detail because there are lots of bits in there which are not really clear. I think they need absolute clarity on this because it's a huge bill for the UK. It's not something that you can kick down the road. There are areas in there which I think are problematic. And certainly, I think for Scotland, one of the areas that is problematic is fishing, and what they've done, there is a huge climb down.

    Now, let's understand this, that coming to a deal means compromise to a degree on both sides. But on fishing, where our fishing industry has been decimated, what we've actually agreed to is a 25% reduction in the EU quota over five and a half years, which is less than 5% a year, and then to sit down and talk about it.

    But our fishermen are already saying they haven't got enough quota to survive on. And if we want to build the UK fishing fleet, which we do, and certainly Scottish boats could really do with going out and catching more fish, then that's not really going to help very much over the next five and a half years. And let's be honest, they've already had four years of the transition period. So it's effectively going to be the best part of 10 years to get back 25% of the quota in our fishing waters.

    Sputnik: Is this then the deal that the public voted for? And has the deal preserved UK sovereignty as Boris Johnson has claimed?

    JW: I think it has. I don't think he's being too disingenuous about that because we do have the right to say yes and no, which we didn't have before. Is it the deal that the UK voted for? No, I don't think it is, I think we are going to have problems with the level playing field if we want – as a country – to rebuild industry, and the government would then help get that industry on a firm footing. If the EU doesn't like that they can then take action against us. But the EU wants its funding if it comes from the EU and not a nation within the EU not under the same rules. So I think there are huge problems in this bill or in the agreement which the bill will be discussing. And I don't think there's anywhere near enough time to get an accurate assessment of its impact to make a decision.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    European Union, deal, Brexit, U.K
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