Britain's new parliament votes for Boris Johnson's Brexit bill

Boris Johnson Parliament frontbench Cabinet

House of Commons/PA Images via Getty Images

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking during the debate in the House of Commons, London, on the Queen's Speech.

  • Members of Parliament vote in favour of Boris Johnson's Brexit bill.
  • Johnson's empowered government won the vote by a majority of 124.
  • Committees will scrutinise the bill next month before it is passed into law.
  • This means the UK is on course to leave the EU by the end of January.
  • Johnson angered opposition MPs by removing from the bill previous commitments on workers' rights, future trade talks, and child refugees.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The UK Parliament has voted in favour of Boris Johnson's Brexit bill, putting the country firmly on track to leave the European Union next month.

Members of Parliament on Friday voted by 358 to 234 in favour of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) at its second reading, giving the Conservative government a House of Commons majority of 124.

Speaking before the vote this afternoon, Prime Minister Johnson said that passing the bill would allow the United Kingdom to come together "as one reinvigorated nation" and "discard the old labels of leave and remain."

He told MPs: "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, and to begin the healing for which the whole people of this country yearn."

Johnson was able to secure parliamentary support for the WAB at its first reading before the general election.

However, MPs voted against the government's plan to ram through all Brexit legislation in the space of just a few days. This prompted the prime minister to call last week's snap election, which he went on to win by a majority of 80.

The vote today means that the UK is on course for leave the EU by the end of next month. House of Commons committees will scrutinise the bill early in the New Year before it completes its passage into law.

Brexit is set to take place on January 31 after Johnson reached a revised deal with Brussels in October.

Johnson sees off angry opposition to take Britain one step closer to Brexit

Boris Johnson

Leon Neal/Getty Images

Opposition MPs were furious with the government prior to Friday's vote after the published text of the WAB revealed that Johnson had scrapped commitments relating to Britain's withdrawal from the EU.

The government included in the bill a legal block on the transition period being extended beyond December 2020.

As things stand, the UK will enter a 11-month transition period after leaving the EU, during which it will continue to follow EU rules. The two sides will try to negotiate a new free agreement deal during this time.

Most trade experts say it is very unlikely that negotiators will be able to secure a trade deal in less than a year, meaning the UK could default to dealing with the EU on costly World Trade Organisation rules in around a year's time.

Johnson before the election said that MPs would have some say over whether the UK would extend the transition period to avoid this outcome. However, under the terms of the updated WAB, that's no longer the case.

It also doesn't include previous assurances over the role Parliament would play in scrutinising the UK's trade talks with the EU. The prime minister previously said that MPs would vote on the UK's objectives in trade negotiations.

Opposition MPs were also angry with Johnson for not including a previous commitment to protecting workers' rights and watering down a pledge to take in unaccompanied refugee children from Europe after Brexit.

Sir Keir Starmer, Labour's Shadow Brexit Secretary, said removing the pledge relating to child refugees was a "moral disgrace." Johnson insisted that the government remained committeed to taking in unaccompanied child refugees.

Our Brexit Insider Facebook group is the best place for up-to-date news and analysis about Britain's departure from the EU, direct from Business Insider's political reporters. Join here.

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