As it happenedended1576864588

Brexit vote: MPs approve Boris Johnson’s withdrawal bill, despite backlash over ‘binned’ protections for child refugees and workers

Follow all the latest developments as they happened

Adam Forrest,Lizzy Buchan
Friday 20 December 2019 18:55 GMT
Brexit bill approved by MPs setting course for EU departure on January 31st

Boris Johnson has been accused of watering down rights in his Brexit legislation, as his withdrawal agreement bill passed its first Commons hurdle with a majority of 124 votes.

Labour said Mr Johnson had “torn-up” protections for workers’ rights and child refugees, calling the changes “deeply cruel”. The Lib Dems said compromises had been “binned” following his march towards “unbridled” power.

As Jacob Rees-Mogg returned to frontline politics following his conspicuous absence from the Tory election campaign, campaigners railed against government plans to shake up the constitution and introduce photo ID at polling stations.

To follow events as they unfolded, see our live coverage below


Good morning and welcome to The Independent’s live coverage of events at Westminster, as the prime minister prepares to bring back his Brexit bill to the Commons.

Adam Forrest20 December 2019 08:19

The Tiggers say goodbye

The Independent Group for Change is shutting up shop after all its MPs lost their seats in the general election.

The party, founded 10 months ago by MPs who quit Labour and the Tories, admitted it not been able to “cut through as a distinctive political force”.

The group tweeted: “It was right to shine a spotlight on Britain’s broken politics. But having taken stock and with no voice now in parliament, we begin the process of winding up our party. Thanks to all who stood with us.”

Adam Forrest20 December 2019 08:22

Boris Johnson brings back his ‘oven-ready’ Brexit deal

MPs are set to approve Boris Johnson’s Brexit bill on Friday, triggering the final stage of the UK’s exit from the EU at the end of January.

The Commons will vote on the second reading of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, which enshrines the deal in law.

The PM’s election victory means that the draft law is certain to pass its second reading before parliament disbands for Christmas. It is expected to then be rushed through the Commons and Lords early in the New Year to deliver Brexit (at least the first stage of Brexit) by 31 January.

Adam Forrest20 December 2019 08:25

ERG boasts about being Tory ‘manifesto support group’

Tory MP Sir Bernard Jenkin said the pro-Brexit European Research Group (ERG) is “quite happy” and joked that they are now the “manifesto support group” following the general election that saw an increased Conservative majority.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It was the Remainers that wrecked Boris Johnson's ability to get the agreement through Parliament.

“Every member of the ERG supported Boris Johnson’s agreement, so we’re generally quite happy about how all this is proceeding.

“It’s a compromise deal.”

Sir Bernard added: “I’m just reminding myself what was in our manifesto - take back control of our laws, take back control of our money, control our trade policy, introduce an Australian-style points immigration system, raise standards in areas like workers rights, animal welfare, agriculture and the environment, and ensure we're in full control of our fishing waters.

“I mean, we’re the manifesto support group now.”

Adam Forrest20 December 2019 08:27

PM accused of ‘binning’ compromises as Brexit bill returns

Boris Johnson faced accusations he had “binned” his withdrawal deal compromises in favour of a hard Brexit as MPs prepare to vote on his exit terms.

Critics on the opposition benches said the PM had reneged on his pledged pre-election compromises on protections for workers and child refugees now that he had been “unbridled” by his crushing win at the polls.

Sir Keir Starmer, Labour's shadow Brexit secretary, said: “The Tories have torn-up the protections for workers’ rights and child refugees - and watered-down parliament’s role in the next phase of the Brexit negotiations. It was a bad Bill before the election, and it is even worse now.”

Acting Liberal Democrat leader, Sir Ed Davey, added: “Barely days away from the election and this Withdrawal Agreement reveals exactly what an unbridled Boris Johnson will do with the country.

“Every compromise made before the election, from workers’ rights to protections for unaccompanied refugee children, have been binned just as we warned they would.

Labour MP Anneliese Dodds said she is “very concerned” about the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill.

“I mean, clearly, with a government majority of the size that it is at the moment, it is likely that it will pass, but I think we’ve got to represent our constituents’ concerns and do at least what we can to make sure these issues are heard,” she told the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Adam Forrest20 December 2019 08:37

Rees-Mogg returns after extremely quiet campaign

Jacob Rees-Mogg makes his return to frontline politics following his conspicuous absence from the Tory election campaign (his remarks suggesting Grenfell victims lacked “commons sense” made him persona non grata for CCHQ).

The Commons leader has explained that the government’s is bringing back its EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill.

He claims the Conservative government “led inspiringly by Boris Johnson is doing what it would said it would do during the election campaign”.

Adam Forrest20 December 2019 08:55

EU warns of ‘very short timeframe available’ for trade deal

European Parliament vice president Pedro Silva Pereira said officials expect to conclude the ratification process in the European Parliament by 29 January.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We’ve always respected the choice of the British people, but it is true that it was a very long process.”

Asked what kind of trade deal can be negotiated and how “deep” it can be if it is to be completely concluded by the end of 2020, he said: “We have a very short timeframe available.

“Eleven months to negotiate such a complex trade agreement is unprecedented. It is a different situation. We come from a level of economic integration which has no comparison with other trade agreements that we’ve done before.”

He added: “The key issue will be what kind of regulatory disalignment we will have. The political declaration that we’ve agreed with the UK envisaged a very ambitious trading relationship with zero tariffs, zero quotas.

“But this can only be achieved if we ensure some regulatory alignment.”

Adam Forrest20 December 2019 09:09

Clive Lewis joins Labour leadership race

The Norwich South MP Clive Lewis has become the latest Labour MP to enter the race to succeed Jeremy Corbyn.

The shadow Treasury minister vowed to “unleash” the party by handing more power to its members, and accused Corbyn of “indecisiveness” and a “lack of leadership”.

Referring to the general election defeat as Labour’s “own Dunkirk”, Lewis said he was standing for leader because “if I don’t, certain necessary truths may go unspoken”.

Adam Forrest20 December 2019 09:10

Speaker reveals hospitalisation during election campaign

The House of Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, who has revealed that he was diagnosed with diabetes just days before the general election, said a GP sent him to A&E, where medics told him he would have to stay in hospital.

“They said ‘We’re really probably going to have to keep you in’. I said ‘Well, that’s impossible, I’m in the middle of a general election with 10 days to go’,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

He said he is “more or less 100% sure” that it is Type 1 diabetes that he is suffering from.

Sir Lindsay said the ketones in his body were “off the scale”, adding: “The fact that suddenly I go in, and then I’ve got to start injecting insulin came as a real shock.”

He added: “Never, ever did I expect it would happen to me. And to come at such a time, it really is taking a lot of getting used to.”

Sir Lindsay said he has spoken to fellow diabetes sufferer Theresa May.

“She said to me ‘Look, if you ever need a chat, if you ever want some support...’ She was really kind, very considerate and said ‘Your life doesn’t have to change’.”

Adam Forrest20 December 2019 09:17

Sajid Javid announces next Bank of England governor

Andrew Bailey, the head of the Financial Conduct Authority, will be the next governor of the Bank of England.

The chancellor confirmed Bailey, former deputy governor of the Bank, for the role – saying he was the “stand-out-out candidate” and a “leader of international standing”.

He had been one of the long-term favourites to take over the position, but has come under heavy scrutiny over the past year amid a series of major auditing failures during his tenure at the regulator.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell responded by tweeting: “As an establishment figure with what some consider is a less than inspiring record at the FCA Andrew Bailey will need to demonstrate early that he appreciates the need to address the deep structural problems of our economy & like Mark Carney understands the climate change threat.”

Adam Forrest20 December 2019 09:24

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