The House of Commons voted 358-234 for the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, AP reported.
It will receive more scrutiny and possible amendment next month, and also has to be approved by Parliament’s upper chamber, the House of Lords. But Johnson’s commanding Conservative majority in Parliament means it is almost certain to become law in January. Britain will then leave the EU on Jan. 31.
Johnson said Friday that passing the bill would end the “acrimony and anguish” that has consumed the country since it voted in 2016 to leave the EU. Opponents argue that leaving the EU will only trigger more uncertainty over Britain’s future trade relations with the bloc.
Friday’s vote was a moment of triumph for Johnson, who won a commanding parliamentary majority in last week’s general election on a promise to end more than three years of political gridlock and lead Britain out of the European Union on Jan. 31.
The UK’s departure will open a new phase of Brexit, as Britain and the EU race to strike new relationships for trade, security and host of other areas by the end of 2020.
Johnson, however, painted Friday’s vote as a moment of closure. Opening debate on the bill he said, optimistically, that after Jan, 31, “Brexit will be done, it will be over.”
“The sorry story of the last 3 1/2 years will be at an end and we will be able to move forward together,” he said.
“This is a time when we move on and discard the old labels of ‘leave’ and ‘remain,’” Johnson added. “Now is the time to act together as one reinvigorated nation.”
Britain voted narrowly to leave the EU in a 2016 referendum. But previous attempts by Johnson and his predecessor, Theresa May, to pass a Brexit deal through the UK Parliament foundered as lawmakers objected to sections of the agreement and demanded a bigger say in the process. Johnson’s election victory finally gives him the power to get his way.
The bill commits Britain to leaving the EU on Jan. 31 and to concluding trade talks with the bloc by the end of 2020. Trade experts and EU officials say striking a free trade deal within 11 months will be a struggle, but Johnson insists he won’t agree to any more delays, The Brexit bill has been amended to bar ministers from agreeing to extend the transition period with the EU.
That has set off alarm bells among businesses, who fear that means the country will face a “no-deal” Brexit at the start of 2021. Economists say that would disrupt trade with the EU — Britain’s biggest trading partner — and plunge the UK into recession.
Johnson said Friday he was confident of striking a “deep, special and democratically accountable partnership with those nations we are proud to call our closest friends” by the Brexit deadline.
He said extending the transition period would just prolong Brexit “acrimony and anguish ... a torture that came to resemble Lucy snatching away Charlie Brown’s football.”