MPs finally back law which will take the UK out of the European Union on 31 January

Posted On: 
9th January 2020

The UK's departure from the European Union has taken another major step forward after MPs finally gave approval to Boris Johnson's Brexit plans.

The Withdrawal Agreement Bill has finally cleared all of its Commons hurdles.
Credit: 
PA

The Commons voted 330 to 231  to approve the Withdrawal Agreement Bill at its third reading, putting an end to months of late night votes and government defeats.

Although the draft legislation still needs to be approved by the House of Lords, it means the UK will definitely leave the European Union on 31 January, over 10 months after the original 29 March 2019 exit date.

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Speaking before the vote, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister said: "The Prime Minister obviously made it a priority after winning a majority to get Brexit done and to move the country forward, and securing the legislation's passage through the Commons is a signficant positive step for deliver that."

Winding up the debate on the bill, Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay said: "This evening the bill will pass to the other place with a very clear mandate from this House that now is the time to move forwards.

"I anticipate constructive scrutiny as we would expect from the other place but I have no doubt that their lordships will have heard the resounding message from the British people on 12 December and they will have seen the clear will of this House.

"This bill will secure our departure from the European Union with a deal that gives certainty to businesses, protects the rights of our citizens and ensures that we regain control of our money, our borders, our laws and our trade policy."

Labour voted against the bill, and shadow Brexit minister Thangam Debbonaire said: "We will focus entirely on voting against the entire bill at third reading and no that’s not voting against Brexit ,it’s voting against this bill.

"To all the members opposite who think they’re about to vote to get Brexit done they must know what lies ahead...they know they must know that trade negotiations take time. They must know even if we are in alignment now the Government stated intention is to diverge and so be in no doubt trade negotiations will take longer than the precious few months that they've allowed."

Unless there is a significant challenge from peers it is likely the bill will receive Royal Assent on 22 January, before the European Parliament ratifies the deal on 29 January.

The thumping 99-vote majority for Mr Johnson's deal comes after Theresa May was dealt three crushing Commons defeats on her Brexit proposals, leading to a series of delays and her eventual resignation.

In October, Mr Johnson won a slim 30 vote majority for his Brexit plans, but chose not to proceed with the process after MPs rejected his three-day timetable for passing the legislation through Parliament.

He used the defeat to press for the December election in which he vowed to deliver the UK's exit by the end of January.

The legislation passed by MPs has also enshrined in law the commitment not to extend the post-Brexit transition period beyond December 2020, meaning UK and EU negotiators will have just 11 months to negotiate a new trade deal.

But the move was criticised by newly appointed European Commission president Ursula Von der Leyen, who described the timetable as "very, very tight".

Speaking ahead of talks with the Mr Johnson earlier this week, she said: "Without an extension of the transition period beyond 2020, you cannot expect to agree on every single aspect of our new partnership. We will have to prioritise."