Parliament was yesterday to vote on British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s deal to leave the EU, a move he described as delivering on his promise to “get the Brexit vote wrapped up for Christmas” after his landslide election victory.
After suffering several defeats in the previous parliament, Johnson enjoys a large majority and should face little opposition in passing the bill to implement Britain’s biggest foreign and trade policy shift in more than 40 years.
More than three years since Britain voted to exit the EU in a 2016 referendum, the deep uncertainty over Brexit has been replaced by the firm deadline of Jan. 31.
“This is the time when we move on and discard the old labels of ‘leave’ and ‘remain,’” Johnson told parliament before the vote, expected at about 2:30pm. “Now is the time to act together as one reinvigorated nation, one United Kingdom.”
“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, to begin the healing for which the whole people of this country yearn,” he said.
The final stages of ratification would take place after Christmas, with the British House of Commons having until Jan. 9 to approve the legislation, giving it just more than three weeks to then pass through the British House of Lords and receive royal assent.
Johnson wanted yesterday’s vote to show his intent and prove that he — unlike his predecessor, former British prime minister Theresa May — can get his Brexit deal passed by lawmakers.
After leaving, Britain would need to secure new trading arrangements with the EU — a future friendship that would see the country agree to a trade deal with no alignment with the bloc’s rules, Johnson said.
In a few changes to the so-called Withdrawal Agreement Bill, Johnson seeks to make sure that there can be no legal chance of extending those talks beyond the end of next year.
However, while Johnson has the support of his 365 Conservative lawmakers in the 650-seat parliament, some opposition lawmakers criticized him for removing the opportunity for parliament to have oversight over his negotiating priorities in the next phase of talks and for getting rid of workers’ protections.
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn described it as “terrible” and said that his party would not be supporting the bill.
“This deal does not bring certainty for communities or for business or for the workforce. In fact, it does the opposite and hard-wires the risk of a no-deal Brexit next year,” he said.
Just a week after he won the largest Conservative majority since then-British prime minister Margaret Thatcher in 1987, Johnson has set out an ambitious government program, with securing Brexit at the top of his agenda to repay the trust of voters.
Hoping to satisfy the demands of voters in northern and central England who broke their tradition of backing the Labour Party to support him, Johnson has also pledged more funding to the state health service, education and policing.
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