Newstalk
Newstalk

15.15 20 Dec 2019


Share this article


The British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has taken the first step towards taking the UK out of the European Union on January 31st.

With a newly-acquired Conservative Party majority in the House of Commons, MPs voted in favour of the EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill by 358 votes to 234 at its second reading - a majority of 124.

The legislation, which will return to British parliament for its final stages after Christmas, is needed to ratify Mr Johnson's Brexit deal - which he agreed with the EU in October - and put the exit agreement into UK law.

Prior to the vote, he had urged UK MPs to "come together as a new parliament to break the deadlock and finally to get Brexit done".

With a post-election call for unity, Mr Johnson said: "This juncture in our national story must not be seen as a victory for one party or one faction over another.

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

And, referring to his election campaign message that he had an "oven-ready" Brexit deal, he told the House of Commons: "The oven is on - it is set at gas mark 4.

"We can have it done by lunch time, or late lunch, and the new deal that I negotiated with our European friends will restore our great institutions to their rightful place as the supreme instruments of British self-governance."

However, Mr Johnson faced hostility from opposition UK MPs amid claims he had watered-down parts of the withdrawal agreement bill from the last time he had tried to pass the legislation in October.

This includes an apparent rowing back on an original commitment to strike a deal with the EU so child refugees in Europe can continue to be reunited with their families in the UK.

Clause 37 of the bill says ministers will now only "make a statement" on the progress of the talks.

Mr Johnson also dismissed concerns that pledges on workers' rights - part of pre-election concessions to opposition MPs while previously attempting to win support for the Brexit deal - had been binned.

The government has pointed to a Conservative Party election manifesto promise and separate legislation proposed in Thursday's queen's speech as an indicator of their commitment to protecting rights.

Brexit withdrawal British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a Brexit debate in the UK House of Commons, London | Image: House of Commons/PA Wire/PA Images

In October, MPs backed a second reading of the original Withdrawal Agreement Bill but blocked Mr Johnson's proposed timetable for passing the legislation.

This prompted him to pause the passage of the bill and instead push for a general election.

On Friday, UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told MPs that his party "recognise the clear message" from the election that UK voters want to "end the never-ending cycle of Brexit debate and get back to solving the day-to-day issues and challenges they face in their lives".

But he argued this does not mean Labour "should abandon basic principles or give up the demand for a fairer and more just society" as he claimed Mr Johnson's Brexit agreement was still a "terrible deal" and confirmed his MPs would vote against it.

"We remain certain there is a better and fairer way for this country to leave the EU," he said.

He described the EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill as a "roadmap for the reckless direction in which the government and the prime minister are determined to take our country".

The SNP's Westminster leader Ian Blackford, whose party won 48 out of 59 Scottish seats at the election, said his country "could not have been clearer" that it "still totally and utterly rejects Brexit".

"We reject this toxic Brexit legislation and make the case clear that this UK government cannot drag Scotland out of the EU before gaining the legislative consent of the Scottish Parliament," he said.

Mr Corbyn's comments come after it was revealed that Mr Johnson will bring forward legislation to rule out any extension on trade deal negotiations.

Changes to the bill have been introduced to prevent parliament extending the transition period beyond the end of next year.

Main image: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn walk through the House of Commons during the State opening of parliament on Thursday | Image: Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA Wire/PA Images


Share this article


Read more about

Boris Johnson Brexit Deal Brexit Withdrawal Agreement Brexit Withdrawal Bill European Union House Of Commons

Most Popular

Live: Title

Now playing

00:00:00 / 00:00:00
Added to queue
Removed from queue

On Air

Share

Share


Up next

Episode title
Show
Duration

You currently have no podcasts in your queue.

Go to podcasts

On Air

Newstalk Breakfast

Newstalk Breakfast

07:00-09:00

Share

Up next

THE PAT KENNY SHOW

THE PAT KENNY SHOW

09:00-12:00

Share

LUNCHTIME LIVE

LUNCHTIME LIVE

12:00-14:00

Share

MONCRIEFF

MONCRIEFF

14:00-16:00

Share

THE HARD SHOULDER

THE HARD SHOULDER

16:00-19:00

Share

OFF THE BALL

OFF THE BALL

19:00-22:00

Share

THE TOM DUNNE SHOW

THE TOM DUNNE SHOW

22:00-00:00

Share

BEST OF NEWSTALK

BEST OF NEWSTALK

00:00-06:00

Share

BREAKFAST BRIEFING

BREAKFAST BRIEFING

06:00-06:30

Share

BREAKFAST BUSINESS

BREAKFAST BUSINESS

06:30-07:00

Share

NEWSTALK BREAKFAST

NEWSTALK BREAKFAST

07:00-09:00

Share

00:00:00 / 00:00:00

Share on