HISTORIC MOMENT AS BREXIT FINALLY BEGINS
A TRIUMPHANT Boris Johnson won a spectacular victory yesterday as MPs voted by a huge majority to back his Brexit deal.
The historic vote of 358 to 234 in favour of the Prime
Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement Bill at last paved the way for Britain’s EU exit.
The win means the UK is now – 1,275 days after the 2016 referendum – firmly on track to leave the European Union on January 31.
Mr Johnson said the result meant “we are one step closer to getting Brexit done”.
European Council President Charles Michel hailed it as an “important step”.
The outcome represents a monumental victory for Mr Johnson and is the final proof that his general election gamble has paid off.
The passage of the Bill should now be a formality because of the Conservative 80-seat majority.
It also marks a massive step forward for the long-standing Daily Express crusade to get Britain out of the EU.
The outcome was a crushing blow for Jeremy Corbyn as the Labour leader had ordered his MPs to vote against it.
In a sign of his total loss of authority six of his MPs – Sarah Champion, Rosie Cooper, Jon Cruddas, Emma Lewell-Buck, Grahame Morris and Toby Perkins – defied him to vote in favour of the Brexit deal. A further 32 Labour MPs did not vote.
As the debate opened yesterday the Prime Minister urged MPs to back the Bill saying: “Now is the time to act together as one reinvigorated nation, one United Kingdom, filled with renewed confidence in our national destiny.
“Determined at last to take advantage of the opportunities that now lie before us, we will be able to move forward together.
“The Bill ensures that the implementation period must end on January 31 with no possibility of an extension.
“And it paves the path for a new agreement on our future relationship with our European neighbours based on an ambitious free-trade agreement, with control of our own laws and close relations.
“This vision of the United Kingdom’s independence, a vision that inspires so many, is only hours from our grasp.” The Bill will now
be given further scrutiny in the House of Commons and House of Lords when Parliament returns on January 7.
After that it is fully expected to
pass into law before being rubberstamped by the European Parliament.
Following last week’s election landslide, the Prime Minister
altered the Bill to include a clause banning an extension to the Brexit transition period where the UK will thrash out the future trading relationship with the EU.
Yesterday’s vote was welcomed by Conservative ex-Cabinet minister Damian Green, who had voted Remain in the 2016 EU referendum.
He said: “A week ago Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party won a general election saying we wanted to get Brexit done.
“Here we are today, a week later, getting it done.”
Chancellor Sajid Javid said, “it’s
getting done” while Nigel Farage, a long-term critic of the PM’s deal, said it was a “historic moment” and the UK’s departure from the EU “is happening”.
Business leaders also welcomed the outcome.
Mike Cherry, the national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, also praised the Government.
He said: “This clarity of purpose will hopefully instil confidence in the small business community that they can get back to the business of investing, creating jobs and growing.” Addressing MPs before the vote, Mr Johnson said his Bill “learns the emphatic lesson of the last Parliament” and “rejects any further delay”.
He told MPs: “It ensures we depart on 31 January.At that point Brexit will be done. It will be over. The sorry story of the last three years will be at an end and we can move forward.”
The Labour leader said the Government’s mishandling of Brexit had paralysed the political system, divided communities and was a “national embarrassment”.
And in a bizarre moment Mr Corbyn claimed it would ultimately result in maggots in orange juice and rat hairs in paprika.
He said the UK would have to “slash food standards” in order to secure a post-Brexit trade deal with the US.
But he was rounded on by Conservative backbenchers who dismissed the claims and delighted in pointing out that Mr Corbyn had been “slaughtered” by voters at the general election last week.
However, Mr Johnson faced hostility from opposition MPs amid
claims he had watered down parts of the EU 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.
Wigan MP Lisa Nandy, a potential Labour leadership contender, quizzed the Prime Minister over what she described as “a direct attack on some of the most vulnerable children in the world”.
But Mr Johnson told Ms Nandy
she was wrong and his government “remain absolutely committed to ensuring that we continue in this country to receive unaccompanied children”.
The Prime Minister also dismissed concerns that pledges on workers’ rights had been binned.
He said: “This House should never doubt its ability to pioneer standards for the fourth industrial revolution, just as we did the first.”
Outside Parliament Brexit campaigners gathered to celebrate the success of yesterday’s vote.
Boris Johnson and Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay in the House yesterday
Tory MPs Owen Paterson and Andrea Jenkyns with Brexit supporters