Brexit: British MPs resoundingly approve EU withdrawal agreement
Vote of 358 to 234 marks the end of parliament’s three-year conflict over Brexit
British prime minister Boris Johnson sitting among Conservative colleagues in the House of Commons on Friday. Photograph: Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament/AFP via Getty Images
MPs have voted overwhelmingly in favour of Boris Johnson’s plan to take Britain out of the European Union at the end of next month, passing his Withdrawal Agreement Bill by 358 votes to 234, a majority of 124. Six Labour MPs voted with the government and 32 abstained in a vote that marks the end of parliament’s three-year conflict over Brexit.
The DUP, the SDLP and Alliance voted against the Bill and MPs from all three parties expressed concern about the impact of its provisions for Northern Ireland. Mr Johnson said the Bill, which will complete its passage through parliament in early January, should not be seen as a victory for either side in the Brexit debate.
“This is the time when we move on and discard the old labels of Leave and Remain. 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,” he said.
The prime minister defended the changes he made to the Bill since the election, including a prohibition on extending the post-Brexit transition beyond December 2020.
“If we have learnt anything from the experience of the last three years, it is that drift and dither means more acrimony and anguish,” he said.
“And there would be nothing more dangerous for the new future that we want to build than allowing the permanent possibility of extending . . . the implementation period in a torture that came to resemble Lucy snatching away Charlie Brown’s football, or Prometheus chained to the Tartarean crag, his liver pecked out by an eagle and then growing back . . . only to be pecked out again in the cycle repeated forever.”
Jeremy Corbyn described as “appalling” the government’s decision to abandon a commitment to work with the EU to admit unaccompanied child refugees to be reunited with relatives.
“Shame on this government for abandoning children in this way,” he said.
Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer, who is expected to be among the candidates to succeed Mr Corbyn as Labour leader, said that although his party had lost the general election, it must not lose its beliefs.
“As a result of the majority that the government have and the mandate that they have, we are leaving the EU. We will have left the EU within the next six months, and whatever side we were on, or even if we were on no side at all, the Leave-Remain argument will go with us.
“That does not mean that the deal negotiated by the prime minister is a good deal. It is not. It was a bad deal in October when it was signed, it was a bad deal when it was first debated in the House in October, it was a bad deal last Thursday, and it is a bad deal today. In fact, it is worse today,” he said.
“The changes the government have made – weakened protections for workplace rights, a sidelined parliament and weakened protections for child refugees – tell us everything we need to know about the prime minister and this government, their priorities and their values.”