Vowing to “finish the job”, United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson is preparing to bring his Brexit bill back to the House of Commons on Friday in his bid to ensure the country leaves the European Union by the end of January.
Johnson hailed “a new dawn” that would give “certainty” to businesses, three-and-a-half years after the UK voted by a narrow 52-48 margin to leave the world’s largest trading bloc.
As part of his general election pledge to have Brexit “decided” by Christmas, the Conservative Party leader is set to re-introduce the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill, as it is officially titled, for its second reading in the country’s lower legislative house.
“Today, we will deliver on the promise we made to the people and get the Brexit vote wrapped up for Christmas,” said Johnson on Thursday night.
“Now, MPs will start the process of passing the bill. Then, at the beginning of the new decade, at the beginning of a new dawn for our country, our parliamentarians will return to Westminster to immediately finish the job, take us out of the EU on January 31 and move this country forward.”
Johnson won a landslide in last week’s general election, securing an 80-seat majority, and Friday afternoon’s vote is expected to sail through without a hitch for the government.
The proposed law will then complete its remaining legal stages in both Houses of Parliament and be given Royal Assent in the new year, paving the way for the UK to leave the EU by the January 31 deadline.
“Boris Johnson is on a high,” said Al Jazeera’s Paul Brennan, reporting from outside Parliament. “Fresh from a resounding election win, equipped with a big stable parliamentary majority, there is little to stand in his way.”
Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the House of Commons, also confirmed on Thursday night that while the legislature would not be sitting on Monday, January 6, the remaining stages of the bill’s passage – including the chance for legislators to propose amendments at committee – are scheduled for January 7, 8 and 9.
It will then proceed to the House of Lords for further scrutiny.
EU leaders are expected to endorse the deal at a special summit in the closing days of January, bringing to a close 47 years of the UK’s membership of the continental union set up in the aftermath of the second world war.
Next year will be a great year for our country - the year we get Brexit done, boost NHS funding, invest in infrastructure and level up access to opportunity and prosperity across our great nation
But changes have been made to the bill since it was last seen by parliamentarians in October.
Johnson has backtracked on his promise to allow MPs a vote on extending the transition period – the 11-month buffer during which his administration claims it will negotiate a full trade deal with the 27-nation bloc – if no such agreement is in place by the end of 2020.
The Brexit bill now includes a clause that legally prohibits any extension, which government supporters say shows the EU that the UK government is serious about its planned schedule, but which its detractors say unnecessarily ties the hands of negotiators.
“After years of delay and rancour in Parliament, we will deliver certainty and hard-working businesses and people across this country will have a firm foundation on which to plan for the future,” said Johnson.
“Next year will be a great year for our country – the year we get Brexit done, boost NHS funding, invest in infrastructure and level up access to opportunity and prosperity across our great nation.
“It will mark the start of a new decade where the United Kingdom will champion trade, innovation and science and meet global challenges with old friends and new across the world.”
But the draft law is also set to boost the power of courts to overturn EU laws and judgments made by the European Court of Justice – notably on labour and environmental protections, such as workers’ holiday and sick pay entitlement, as well as limits to working hours currently enshrined in European legislation which could be challenged by employers in the post-Brexit UK.
“Our commitment to continue the highest standards on workers’ rights, environmental standards and consumer protections will be honoured by provisions in separate legislation, including the Employment Bill announced in the Queen’s Speech,” said a Downing Street spokesman.