Brexit: MPs give final backing to Withdrawal Agreement Bill

Flags in WestminsterImage source, Getty Images

MPs have given their final backing to the bill that will implement the UK government's Brexit deal.

The Commons voted 330 to 231 in favour of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill and it will now pass to the House of Lords for further scrutiny next week.

If peers choose to amend it will it come back before MPs.

The bill covers "divorce" payments to the EU, citizens' rights, customs arrangements for Northern Ireland and the planned 11-month transition period.

The UK is due to leave the EU on 31 January.

The bill comfortably cleared its third reading in the House of Commons, as expected, with a majority of 99. All 330 votes in favour were Conservative.

It took just three days for the bill to pass the remaining stages in the Commons, after MPs gave their initial approval to the legislation before the Christmas recess.

Theresa May - Boris Johnson's predecessor in Downing Street - repeatedly failed to get her Brexit agreement passed by MPs, which led to her resignation as prime minister.

The latest vote gives approval to the 11-month transition period after 31 January, in which the UK will cease to be an EU member but will continue to follow its rules and contribute to its budget.

The purpose of the transition period is to give time for the UK and EU to negotiate their future relationship, including a trade deal.

Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson, Alistair Carmichael said his party would continue to oppose the "dangerous" bill.

"They have voted for a bill that will slash the rights of future generations to live and work across 27 other countries," he said.

"They have voted for a bill that strips away our guaranteed environmental protections, despite the fact that we are facing a climate emergency."

And SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said Scotland would "remain an independent European country".

"This is a constitutional crisis, because we will not and we cannot accept what is being done to us," he told MPs.

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But Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay has said the bill will deliver on the "overwhelming mandate" his party was given at the general election to take the UK out of the EU on 31 January.

He has also said he is "confident" the UK will be able to negotiate a trade deal with the EU by the end of the year, despite critics saying that the deadline is too tight.

Mr Johnson has also insisted a deal is possible by December 2020 and has said the transition period will not be extended.

He has said the UK is ready to start negotiations "as soon as possible" after 31 January.

On Wednesday, new European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen warned it would be "impossible" to reach a comprehensive trade deal by the end of 2020.