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The Withdrawal Deal Bill just sailed through the House of Commons by 330 votes to 231

The deal covers areas including EU citizen’s rights, customs arrangements in Northern Ireland and and a transition period.

Image: Shutterstock/lazyllama

THE HOUSE OF Commons has approved legislation to allow Britain to leave the European Union on 31 January. 

The deal covers areas including EU citizen’s rights, customs arrangements in Northern Ireland and a transition period. 

The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill was given a third reading by 330 votes to 231, majority 99.

The comfortable victory for Prime Minister Boris Johnson followed the influx of new Tory MPs and is in marked contrast to the tortuous attempts to steer a Brexit bill through the Commons before the December general election.

The Bill, which paves the way for Brexit on 31 January, will now go to the Lords, where it could face a more difficult passage as Johnson does not have a majority in the upper chamber.

European Affairs Minister Helen McEntee described the vote on Twitter as a bitter sweet moment.  

McEntee, along with Tánaiste Simon Coveney, was involved with negotiations which resulted in the latest version of a Withdrawal Agreement. 

In a post on Twitter, she said: “This should feel like a monumental moment but knowing the difficult task that lies ahead, it’s another milestone on what has been a long and difficult journey. Many more miles still to go #Brexit.”

The bill will still have to go before the Lords for approval. 

The UK Government faced continued criticism over the issue of allowing unaccompanied child refugees to continue to be reunited with their families in the UK after exit day.

The previous government had accepted an amendment from Labour peer Lord Alf Dubs seeking continued protections for child refugees after Brexit but, following his election victory, Johnson re-drafted the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill and withdrew his commitment.

A new Conservative MP used his maiden speech to defend the Government’s decision.

Tory David Simmonds said, while it is clear that issues around the resettlement of vulnerable children are “very much in the minds of many members”, it is “absolutely right” that these issues are for the Immigration Bill, rather than the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (Wab).

He added that young refugees in the EU are “already within countries that have child protection systems that are very similar, equivalent and in some cases better to our own”.

Earlier in the debate, Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer said Labour can still “win the moral argument” after its bid to enshrine protections for child refugees in the Government’s Brexit agreement failed.

He urged the Government to “reconsider” its opposition to his party’s plans, adding that Labour “may not win many votes in this Parliament, but we can win the moral argument”.

- With reporting from PA

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