In Brief

MPs pass Johnson’s withdrawal agreement paving way for January exit

With Tories’ 80-strong majority, the EU divorce bill passes by a comfortable margin

MPs have voted to pass Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, setting Britain up to leave the European Union by the end of January.

The bill passed by 358 to 234 – a majority of 124. The result was to be expected after Johnson’s electoral success last week delivered a Commons majority of 80 for the Conservatives, says the BBC.

The bill will now move to what is known as “committee stage”, where there will be an opportunity for changes to be made to the wording or for new clauses to be added.

This is the second version of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, which was first published in October.

As The Guardian reports, it includes:

  • Powers to make the Brexit deal legal under domestic law.
  • The legislation enabling the transition period allowing the UK to stay in the customs union and single market between 1 February and 21 December 2020.
  • Powers to ministers and devolved governments to deal with the separation issues particularly in Northern Ireland.
  • Powers and arrangements to ensure EU citizens’ rights laid out in the withdrawal agreement are implemented.

A number of small changes have been made to the bill including the removal of:

  • The clause giving MPs the right to approve an extension to the transition period.
  • The right of the House of Commons to approve the negotiating objectives of the government in the next phase of the Brexit talks
  • The removal of clauses pledging alignment with the EU on workers’ rights.
  • Legal protections for refugee children reunited with family members in the UK have been watered down.

Some clauses have also been added, for example:

  • A clause outlawing an extension to the Brexit transition period beyond 31 December
  • A clause locking in Brexit at the stroke of midnight, 31 December.

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