Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal has cleared its first Commons hurdle with a thumping majority of 124, putting the UK on course to leave the EU on 31 January.
The withdrawal agreement bill stripped of powers for MPs to avert the risk of a no-deal Brexit at the end of 2020 and scrutinise the future EU trade deal was given its second reading.
It will now be given detailed scrutiny at its committee stage early in the New Year, but is not expected to be amended significantly before passing into law next month.
The result was not in doubt, after Mr Johnson won an 80-strong majority at last week’s election, but the size of the victory hinting at around 30 Labour abstentions or absentees.
The prime minister’s relaxed approach to the vote despite its seismic implications was underlined by him autographing copies of the bill for several Conservative MPs, in the chamber.
Earlier, Mr Johnson urged MPs voters to ditch the labels ‘Leave’ and “Remain’, with the fight to keep the UK in the EU buried by his election landslide.
“We come together as a new parliament to break the deadlock and finally to get Brexit done,” he told MPs.
The decision to leave the EU “must not be seen as a victory for one party over another, or one faction or another,” he argued, adding: “This is the time when we move on and discard the old labels of leave and remain.”
But Keir Starmer, Labour’s Brexit spokesman while acknowledging Brexit will now go ahead said that didn’t change the reality of the economic damage from the exit deal on the table.
“Whatever side we were on or no side at all the Leave-Remain argument goes with it,” he said.
“That doesn’t mean that the deal negotiated by the prime minister is a good deal. It isn’t.
“It was a bad deal in October when it was signed. It was a bad deal when it was first debated in this House in October. It was a bad deal last Thursday and it’s a bad deal today.”
Before the election, the bill was also given a second reading but was then pulled by Downing Street after MPs refused to agree an extraordinarily rapid timetable of just three days in committee.