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MPs pass Second Reading of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill

19 December 2019

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Today, MPs passed the second reading of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement Bill). The Bill sets out the arrangements for the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the EU.

Second Reading

In yesterday's Queen's Speech, the Government announced its intention to introduce the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement Bill), which received its First Reading later that day. No amendments were selected for the Bill for its Second Reading.

MPs approved the Second Reading of the Bill by 358 to 234 votes. The programme motion for the EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill was passed 353 to 243 votes. The Bill will proceed to a Committee of the whole House on Tuesday 6 and Wednesday 7 January, and its Third Reading on Thursday 8 January 2020.

October's Bill

The Government first introduced the Withdrawal Agreement Bill in October 2019. This progressed to a Second Reading, in which the programme motion was defeated. The Bill fell when Parliament was dissolved for 2019 General Election.

Changes to the reintroduced Bill

The new Withdrawal Agreement Bill is similar to the October 2019 Bill in many ways, however three clauses and one Schedule have been removed, and five clauses have been added. The changes to the Bill include:

  • removing MPs' approval role in relation to the Government's negotiating mandate and removing enhanced Parliamentary approval process for any future relationship treaty subsequently negotiated with the EU
  • removing additional procedural protections for workers' rights
  • prohibiting any UK Minister from agreeing to an extension of the transition or implementation period
  • removing the Government's existing obligations to unaccompanied children seeking asylum in the EU who have family members in the UK

For a full list of changes and analysis read the House of Commons Library insight into the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement Bill).

What did MPs say about the Bill?

  • The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson MP, introduced the Bill by emphasising the withdrawal from the European Union as a "new national project" that will unite the nation. He underlined the Government's commitment to keeping Northern Ireland in the UK, and stated that the benefit of leaving the EU is that the UK can set its own standards on subjects such as the environment. 

He said that the Bill will: "reunite our country and allow the warmth and natural affection that we all share for our European neighbours to find renewed expression in […] building a deep, special and democratically-accountable partnership with those nations."

  • The Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn MP, stated that this was a "terrible deal". He cited the removal of clauses that enhanced Parliamentary oversight and protected workers' rights and unaccompanied child refugees. He highlighted the impact on Northern Ireland and the lack of provisions for environmental and food-safety standards. 

He told MPs that the Bill: "will not protect or strengthen our rights, or support our manufacturing industry or our vital trading relationships. [...] I see the Government's removal of the protections in this bill for unaccompanied children seeking asylum as an absolute disgrace."

  • SNP Westminster Leader, Ian Blackford MP, spoke of his belief that the Bill compromised workers' rights and environmental standards, stressing that it would place Scottish businesses at a disadvantage. He told MPs that the Scottish people had clearly signalled their desire for a second independent referendum in the 2019 General Election and asked what the Government had to "fear" by granting this.

He stated that the Bill: "offers no guarantees on workers' or environmental standards, or Mr Speaker, protection for the NHS from a future trade deal with the US. [...] Scotland must consent to its own future. Westminster's arrogance and ignorance has treated Scotland with contempt for too long."

More information on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill  

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