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MPs pass Johnson’s EU withdrawal bill, paving way for January 31 Brexit

MPs pass Johnson’s EU withdrawal bill, paving way for January 31 Brexit
UK MPs have voted to pass PM Boris Johnson’s amended EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB), which sets the stage for an almost-certain Brexit on January 31 — and prevents any extension of the transition period beyond December 2020.

A previous version of the bill said that the post-Brexit transition period could be prolonged by mutual agreement for up to two years, but with Johnson’s Conservative Party now commanding such a large post-election majority in the House of Commons, that concession to the anti-Brexit opposition could be removed.

The bill was passed comfortably by 358 to 234 votes.

The Labour Party did not support the bill, with leader Jeremy Corbyn describing it as a “battering ram” to drive Britain down a path toward “more deregulation” and a “toxic” trade deal with the Trump administration.

The government also removed clauses from the bill which had promised alignment with the EU on workers' rights, saying that they would be protected and "enhanced" under a domestic employment bill.

MPs also passed the "programme motion" for the bill — the government's timetable to push the bill through its final stages in January. The programme motion passed by 353 votes to 243.

Parliament will now break for Christmas and the Brexit bill will return on January 7 when MPs will debate it for another week before voting again and passing the legislation into the House of Lords.

If all goes according to Johnson's plan, the UK will legally leave the European Union on January 31, after which point trade negotiations between London and Brussels will begin.

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Before the Friday vote, Johnson asked the public to shed the divisive labels of "leave" and "remain" as Britain starts to “move on” as “one reinvigorated nation.”

"Now is the moment to come together and write a new and exciting chapter in our national story, to forge a new partnership with our European friends, to stand tall in the world, to begin the healing for which the whole people of this country yearn,” he told MPs.

Yet, despite the hopeful language, Britain’s future relationship with the EU remains unclear and analysts have predicted “years” of wrangling over trade, despite Johnson’s optimistic assurances that a deal can be brokered by December 2020.

There is also still no certainty for Brits on what a trade deal with the US could look like, with many still concerned that a deal with the Trump administration could put the NHS at risk from predatory American health corporations.

Also on rt.com I spy with my little eye: Threats to civil liberties in Johnson's Queen's speech

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