Having secured a Conservative majority as a result of the December vote, Prime Minister Johnson made sure incoming opposition amendments to the withdrawal agreement would be utterly ruled out, thereby paving the way to finally seal the long-debated Brexit bill.
As all eyes are now set on the negotiation of a new relationship between Britain and the EU, British MPs are poised to finally approve Brexit conditions on Thursday so the country can divorce the European bloc as scheduled on 31 January.
MPs gave their initial approval to Boris Johnson’s plan before Christmas, right after the prime minister’s victory in snap elections on 12 December, with the latter drawing a line on the post-referendum turmoil of the past three years, in the wake of the Conservative Party garnering a majority in Parliament.
The House of Commons set aside the upcoming couple of days to complete an overview of a bill ratifying Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s European Union divorce bill – something already viewed as a done deal, in stark contract to previous years, which saw two prime ministers step down over the Brexit impasse and a snap vote urgently called.
The Brexit bill must still be passed by the unelected House of Lords and the European Parliament, and this is expected before 31 January.
Brussels has long questioned the current deadline, viewing it as extremely tight, and has given London the option request a longer stint. Ahead of talks with Johnson on Wednesday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen noted it would be “basically impossible” to come to terms on everything within London’s timeframe. “We will have to prioritise”, she said in a speech to the London School of Economics, warning of “tough talks ahead”.
But Johnson has made it clear there will be no extension of the transition period, saying that Britain must be free of EU rules as soon as possible. Among other things, Johnson’s office indicated that it could give a green light to a partial trade deal, as London is inclined to block the EU’s historic policy of “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed” to define the would-be negotiations, a spokesman put it.
The news comes as Mrs Von Der Leyen assumed office as the head of the European Commission, replacing former president Jean-Claude Juncker.
Numerous opposition amendments were voted down on Tuesday evening, including legislation to protect residency rights of Europeans in the UK.
As for trade, Boris Johnson told von der Leyen on Wednesday he was looking forward to concluding a free trade agreement with the EU and that he was ready to kick start the talks as soon as the United Kingdom withdraws from the bloc on 31 January, the PM’s office explained in a statement.