With a majority of 80 MPs Prime Minister, Boris Johnson ‘easily’ got backing for his plan for the UK to leave the EU on 31 January.
The Prime Minister managed to get a majority of 124 votes in favour, with a total of 358 to 234 in favour of the EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill.
The Government first introduced the Withdrawal Agreement Bill in October 2019. This progressed to a second reading, in which the programme motion was defeated. The Bill fell when Parliament was dissolved for 2019 General Election.
There are a few changes to the revised bill, where three clauses and one Schedule have been removed, and five clauses have been added. The changes to the Bill include:
- removing MPs’ approval role in relation to the Government’s negotiating mandate and removing enhanced Parliamentary approval process for any future relationship treaty subsequently negotiated with the EU
- removing additional procedural protections for workers’ rights
- prohibiting any UK Minister from agreeing to an extension of the transition or implementation period
- removing the Government’s existing obligations to unaccompanied children seeking asylum in the EU who have family members in the UK
The PM said the country was now “one step closer to getting Brexit done”. He said the bill will: “reunite our country and allow the warmth and natural affection that we all share for our European neighbours to find renewed expression in […] building a deep, special and democratically-accountable partnership with those nations.”
Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn however, said that the bill was a “terrible deal”. He cited the removal of clauses that enhanced Parliamentary oversight and protected workers’ rights and unaccompanied child refugees. He highlighted the impact on Northern Ireland and the lack of provisions for environmental and food-safety standards.
He told MPs that the Bill: “will not protect or strengthen our rights, or support our manufacturing industry or our vital trading relationships. […] I see the Government’s removal of the protections in this bill for unaccompanied children seeking asylum as an absolute disgrace.”
Caroline Lucas MP, Green Party, described the Bill as a ‘power grab’ She tweeted: “When they said Brexit was “taking back control”, many wrongly assumed it meant people taking control not an Executive power grab. Yet this Bill is exactly that – scrapping provisions to give people’s representatives oversight & scrutiny”
Critics have said the government’s timescale for a trad deal with the EU to be in place by the end of the transition period is unrealistic.
The bill will be further scrutinised over three days when they return after the Christmas recess on 7,8 and 9 January.