Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit bill was given preliminary approval last week by British lawmakers, paving the way for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union (EU) in January. The House of Commons voted 358-234 for the Withdrawal Agreement Bill. It needs approval by parliament’s upper chamber, and is likely to see more scrutiny and amendment.
The divorce deal also needs to be ratified by the European parliament. Passing the bill would end the ‘acrimony and anguish’ that has gripped the nation since it voted in 2016 to leave the EU, British media reports quoted Johnson as saying.
The bill commits the United Kingdom to leaving the EU on January 31 and to concluding trade talks with the bloc by the end of 2020. The December 20 vote was described by Johnson as a closure, saying, “Brexit will be done, it will be over."
“The sorry story of the last three-and-a-half years will be at an end and we will be able to move forward together," he said.
Trade experts and EU officials feel striking a free trade deal within 11 months will be a struggle, but Johnson insists he won’t agree to any more delays.
That has set off alarm bells among business es, who fear that means the country will face a “no-deal" Brexit at the start of 2021. Economists say that would disrupt trade with the EU — Britain's biggest trading partner — and plunge the U.K. into recession.
Johnson said Friday he was confident of striking a “deep, special and democratically accountable partnership with those nations we are proud to call our closest friends" by the Brexit deadline.
Johnson, who has a 80-seat majority in the 650-seat House of Commons, Johnson did away with parts of the Brexit bill that gave lawmakers a role in negotiating a future trade deal with the EU and required ministers to provide regular updates to Parliament.
The clauses were added earlier to win opposition lawmakers’ support for the Brexit bill and Johnson no longer needs that.
Te bill is expected to complete its passage through parliament in January even without opposition votes.
Very little will change immediately after Brexit. Britain will remain an EU member in all but name during the 11-month transition period that ends in December 2020.
Fibre2Fashion News Desk (DS)