UK lawmakers pass Boris Johnson's Brexit withdrawal deal

World Saturday 21/December/2019 11:09 AM
By: Times News Service
UK lawmakers pass Boris Johnson's Brexit withdrawal deal

Prime Minister Boris Johnson managed to secure a majority of 124 on Friday as Members of Parliament (MPs) voted heavily in favor of his Brexit deal, paving the way for the UK to leave the European Union on January 31.

The vote was the second reading of the withdrawal agreement bill in Parliament. This sees the UK legally bound to leave the EU at the end of next month and to negotiate an agreement on future relations with the EU by the end of 2020, in a so-called "transition period."

The bill was supported by 358 MPs, while 234 voted against the proposal.

"Today we will deliver on the promise we made to the people and get the Brexit vote wrapped up for Christmas," Johnson said ahead of the vote, which comes just a day after Parliament officially reopened.

Johnson: 'Brexit will be done'

Johnson's address to lawmakers before the vote focused on bringing unity to the UK over an issue that has deeply divided the nation.

"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 sorry story of the last three years will be at an end and we can move forward," he added. "Brexit will be done."

The bill passed after last week's general election saw the Conservative party win an 80-seat majority. The bill was previously backed by the lower house in October, but then withdrawn after lawmakers rejected a three-day deadline for getting the bill through Parliament.

The leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, said the Labour Party would not support the "terrible deal," saying there was a better and "fairer way" for the country to leave the EU. He accused Johnson of setting the country in a "reckless direction."

Critics also say that Johnson's time frame will not allow enough time to negotiate a decent trade agreement.

What happens now?

Now that the bill has passed, lawmakers will have another three days to discuss it further, beginning on January 7. Lawmakers could possibly make amendments to the bill. The final vote will take place on January 9.

The bill will then be passed on to the UK's upper house to make a final decision on whether the bill passes into law. By convention, the House of Lords does not usually block policies that were in a government's election policy program.

If these stages at Westminster all go to plan, the European Parliament is expected to ratify the withdrawal agreement on January 29, meaning the UK can leave the bloc two days later.

Charles Michel, the new President of the European Council, tweeted just after the bill passed that "a level playing field remains a must."

The bill is similar to the one that was agreed by Johnson and the European Commission in October, but with a few amendments. It also strips out a clause on strengthening workers' rights after Brexit.

Johnson said the bill would provide "certainty" and allow businesses and individuals to plan for the future, but opponents think that it could increase uncertainty due to not enough time being available to finalize details of a trade deal.