UK MPs back Johnson's Brexit deal

Updated: 21 December, 2019 10:09 IST | Agencies | London

The lawmakers voted 358 to 234 in favour of the so-called divorce agreement with the 28-member economic bloc

Boris Johnson. Pic/AFP
Boris Johnson. Pic/AFP

London: Newly elected British Parliamentarians on Friday definitively backed Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Brexit Bill setting the stage for the UK's exit from the European Union (EU) by the January 31, 2020, deadline.

The lawmakers voted 358 to 234 in favour of the so-called divorce agreement with the 28-member economic bloc, handing Johnson a decisive 124-vote majority. The result is a far cry from the repeated defeats faced by the EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill in the previous Parliament under a Johnson-led minority Conservative government. He had called the December 12 snap General Election in the hope of winning a majority and went to the electorate with a central "Get Brexit Done" message, which resulted in a landslide victory for his party.

The bill, which had its second reading in the House of Commons on Friday ahead of the vote, now goes on for further scrutiny in the Commons and House of Lords. The modified version of the bill tabled this week also includes a ban on an extension to the agreed transition period during which the UK is out of the EU but follows many of its rules past 2020. Johnson told MPs the vote would allow the country to "move forward".

Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told his MPs to vote against it, saying there was "a better and fairer way" to leave the EU. A snap election last week put Johnson's Conservatives in control of parliament and dispelled doubts over whether Britain would become the first nation to leave the European Union. A final vote on Johnson's separation terms will come when lawmakers return from their Christmas break early next month.

But Britain will enter the holiday season closer to legal and economic independence from Brussels than it has been at any point since the 2016 Brexit referendum on Britain's near half-century EU membership. Johnson has the freedom and power to shape Britain's future that his predecessor Theresa May never had during her troubled three-year term. "Today we will deliver on the promise we made to the people and get the Brexit vote wrapped up for Christmas," Johnson said.

Britain's nervous financial market rejoiced when Johnson's governing Conservatives secured an comprehensive majority in the 650-member House of Commons. The healthy margin appeared to remove the possibility of more months of political uncertainty and chaos — and of Britain crashing out of the bloc without any arrangements. But the pound fell back to its pre-election levels when Johnson introduced a series of small but potentially consequential changes into the official Withdrawal Agreement Bill.

124
Majority handed to British PM Boris Johnson

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First Published: 21 December, 2019 09:55 IST

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