UK PM Boris Johnson's Brexit bill secures wide backing
World / 20 December 2019, 7:08pm / By dpa correspondents
London - British lawmakers on Friday approved Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Brexit bill by a wide margin, clearing another hurdle for Britain to leave the European Union on January 31.
Parliament's elected main house, the Commons, voted by 358 to 234 for Johnson's EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill, a majority of 124 votes in favour.
Passage of the bill had been expected to be a formality after the Conservatives won a majority of 80 seats in the 650-member Commons last week.
European Council President Charles Michel said the vote to approve the withdrawal deal was an "important step" in Britain's departure from the bloc.
"A level playing field remains a must for any future relationship," Michel added in a tweet.
After the vote, lawmakers who supported Brexit were seen asking Johnson to sign copies of their agenda papers to mark the day.
Conservative lawmaker Andrea Jenkins later tweeted: "Hooray, a Brexit majority vote," and a photo of a board with the vote tally.
Nigel Farage, a veteran eurosceptic whose Brexit Party failed to win any seats in the election, also welcomed the outcome.
"Brexit is happening. An historic moment," he tweeted.
The bill is set to go through the remaining stages in early January and become law as soon as possible
After leaving on January 31, Britain is to negotiate an agreement on future relations with the EU by the end of next year.
Johnson's predecessor, Theresa May, tried - and failed - three times to get parliament to approve an earlier withdrawal agreement with the EU.
An amendment to the bill also forbids an extension of the transition period beyond 2020.
It was the first major vote since Johnson's Conservatives won last week's snap election.
"The sorry story of the last three years will be at an end and we can move forward," Johnson said in parliament before the vote.
A referendum three and a half years ago resulted in a majority voting for Britain to leave the bloc.
"[The bill] paves the path for a new agreement on our future relationship with our European neighbours based on an ambitious free-trade agreement," Johnson added.
The bill cements Johnson's election promises to formally begin Brexit on January 31 and to negotiate an agreement on future relations with the EU by the end of next year.
"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 said.
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, said before the vote that his party would not support the bill, saying: "We remain certain there is a better and fairer way for this country to leave the European Union."