United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson has won approval for his Brexit deal in the House of Commons, the first step towards fulfilling his election pledge to deliver Britain’s departure from the European Union by January 31 after his landslide election victory last week.
- The bill won by 358 votes to 234
- Mr Johnson said it was time to discard “old labels of ‘leave’ and ‘remain'”
- Labour MPs criticised the bill for removing parliamentary oversight of further Brexit negotiations
MPs voted 358 to 234 to pass the second reading of the legislation, testing Mr Johnson’s 39-seat majority that should ensure a smooth ratification of the divorce deal to implement the United Kingdom’s biggest policy shift in more than 40 years.
It’s been three years since the UK voted to leave the EU, and now the deep uncertainty over Brexit has been replaced by the desire to finally officially leave the bloc by January 31.
The UK had originally been scheduled to leave in March this year, but three Commons defeats of former prime minister Theresa May’s proposed Brexit deal prompted further delays.
If the January deadline is met, Mr Johnson’s Government will then enter into another phase of negotiations involving a UK-EU trade deal, which it wishes to achieve by the end of 2020.
“This is the time when we move on and discard the old labels of ‘leave’ and ‘remain’ … now is the time to act together as one reinvigorated nation, one United Kingdom,” Mr Johnson told Parliament before the vote.
“Now is the moment to come together and write a new and exciting chapter in our national story, to forge a new partnership with our European friends, to stand tall in the world, to begin the healing for which the whole people of this country yearn.”
The final stages of ratification will take place after Christmas, as Commons MPs have until January 9 to approve the legislation, giving it just over three weeks to then pass through the House of Lords and receive Royal assent.
Delivering Brexit also means delivering a trade deal
After leaving, the UK will need to secure new trading arrangements with the EU, which Brexiteers including Mr Johnson pledged would free Britain from the bloc’s various trading regulations.
In a change to the bill, Mr Johnson made it illegal to extend those talks beyond the end of next year.
But while he has the support of his 365 Conservative MPs in the 650-seat House of Commons, some Opposition members criticised him for removing the opportunity for Parliament to have oversight over his negotiating priorities in the next phase of talks, and for getting rid of workers’ protections.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn described it as “terrible” and said his party would not support the bill.
“This deal does not bring certainty for communities or for business or for the workforce, in fact it does the opposite and hardwires the risk of a no-deal Brexit next year,” he said.
At last week’s UK general election, Mr Corbyn was heavily criticised for leading the Labour Party to its worst defeat since 1935, with one party colleague describing him as “worse than useless”.
Mr Johnson earned the biggest Conservative majority since Margaret Thatcher in 1987, and has set out an ambitious program, with securing Brexit at the top of his agenda to repay the trust of voters.
Hoping to satisfy the demands of voters in northern and central England who broke their decades-long tradition of backing the Labour Party to support him, he has also pledged more funding to the state health service, education and policing.
“Today we will deliver on the promise we made to the people and get the Brexit vote wrapped up for Christmas,” he said in comments before the vote.
“Next year will be a great year for our country.”