1/9/2020 12:39:00 PM House of Commons approves Jan. 31 Brexit
LONDON (AP) — Britain passed a major milestone on the road to Brexit when the House of Commons on Thursday approved a bill authorizing the country’s departure from the European Union at the end of the month.
Lawmakers voted by 330-231 to pass the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, which sets the terms of Britain’s departure from the 28-nation bloc. The comfortable majority won by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives in an election last month secured the bill’s passage despite the opposition of smaller parties.
The bill was approved after three days of debate that brought none of the frayed tempers, late-night sessions and knife-edge votes that marked previous rounds of Brexit wrangling over the past year.
After passing through Parliament’s unelected House of Lords — which can delay but not overturn the result in the Commons — the bill should become law in time for the U.K. to leave the EU on the scheduled date of Jan. 31 and become the first nation ever to quit the bloc..
Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said he welcomed the “constructive scrutiny” of the Lords but hoped the upper house would not try to delay the bill.
“I have no doubt that their lordships will have heard the resounding message from the British people on the 12th of December,” he said.
Thursday’s vote was a major victory for Johnson, who has made delivering Brexit the key aim of his premiership. Britain voted narrowly to leave the EU in a 2016 referendum. But before the Dec. 12 election, lawmakers repeatedly defeated attempts by both Johnson and predecessor Theresa May to secure backing for their Brexit blueprints.
But despite Johnson’s repeated promise to “get Brexit done” on Jan. 31, the departure will only mark the start of the first stage of the country’s EU exit. Britain and the EU will then launch into negotiations on their future relationship, racing to strike new relationships for trade, security and a host of other areas by the end of 2020.
“Leaving the EU doesn’t mean that we will have got Brexit done,” said Paul Blomfield, a Brexit spokesman for the main opposition Labour Party. “We’ll have completed the first step, departure, but the difficult stage is yet to come.“