Boris Johnson's Brexit Bill – An Explainer For Those Too Afraid To Ask

The House of Commons now breaks for Christmas with Brexit on course for 31 January.

Friday sees a historic milestone achieved for Brexiteers – as Boris Johnson's Brexit Bill receives backing by a huge majority in Westminster. 

Johnson's Withdrawal Agreement passed its second reading comfortably by 358 votes to 234 which leaves the UK on course to leave the European Union by January 31. 

He urged parliament to eschew bipartisan party lines and allow the "warmth and natural affection that we all share" for the UK's European neighbours to "find renewed expression in one great new national project".

"This is the time when we move on and discard the old labels of Leave and Remain," Johnson added. 

"In fact, the very words seem tired to me - as defunct as Big-enders and Little-enders, or Montagues and Capulets at the end of the play."

The vote isn’t the final endorsement that will be needed to pass the agreement into law — something that is set happen next month — but does symbolise the end of the parliamentary gridlock that marked the past two years.

Johnson’s Conservative Party now has a majority of 80 in the House of Commons after his comfortable election win last week, and the House of Commons is packed with pro-Brexit lawmakers, making the vote for the divorce largely a formality.

"We will be able to move forward together," Boris told Westminster on Friday.

"The Bill ensures that the implementation period must end on January 31 with no possibility of an extension.

"And it paves the path for a new agreement on our future relationship with our European neighbours based on an ambitious free-trade agreement, with no alignment... on EU rules, but instead control of our own laws and close and friendly relations.

"This vision of the United Kingdom's independence, a vision that inspires so many, is now if this Parliament, this new Parliament allows, only hours from our grasp.

"The oven is on, so to speak, it is set at gas mark 4, we can have it done by lunchtime or late lunch."

Boris Johnson's Withdrawal Agreement

Earlier in the week, Boris attempted to mark his election promise to “get Brexit done” by writing into law that the UK will leave the EU in 2020 and will not extend the transition period.

Fundamentally the PM's bill will confirm Brexit happens on 31 January.

Ultimately, this could be reversed if Johnson decides he wants to amend the law later in the year and his MPs vote obligingly. 

Following this, a "transition period" (which will continue until December 2020) will follow where despite the UK having left the EU, a number of things will stay the same until new rules are laid down. 

The purpose of the period is to enable a new wave of UK-EU negotiations to take place. Both parties have already outlined their broad aspirations, in a lengthy 27-page document known as the political declaration.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn labelled the government's handling of Brexit as a "national embarrassment" since 2016, as he said his party "recognises the clear message" from voters at the election but confirmed Labour would not support the bill.

He said Johnson was offering a "terrible" Brexit deal, adding: "Labour will not support this bill as we remain certain there is a better and fairer way for this country to leave the European Union.

"One which would not risk ripping our communities apart, selling out our public services or sacrificing hundreds of thousands of jobs in the process.

"This deal is a road map for the reckless direction in which the government and our Prime Minister are determined to take our country."

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