Katy Balls

Boris Johnson passes withdrawal agreement bill with huge majority

Boris Johnson passes withdrawal agreement bill with huge majority
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After four failed attempts and one ousted prime minister, the Withdrawal Agreement Bill has comfortably passed the Commons at second reading. In fairness, this is not the first time this has happened. In the last parliament, Boris Johnson narrowly managed to pass the WAB at second reading – however, the government then pulled it when the programme motion (which set out a speedy timetable to pass the next stages) was voted down.

This time it's a different story. The WAB passed second reading with a large majority of 124  – at 358 votes for to 234 against – while the programme motion passed comfortably at 353 votes to 243 against. This means the UK is firmly on course to leave the EU by 31 January. When the result was read out, there were cheers from the Tory benches. Notably, not a single Tory MP voted against – with each candidate signing up to Johnson's deal in the course of the election campaign. Eager Conservative MPs were even asking Johnson to sign a copy of the WAB to mark the occasion. All Labour MPs had been instructed to vote against the WAB at second reading. However, some still chose to disobey their leader. There were six MPs who voted in favour – Sarah Champion, Rosie Cooper, Jon Cruddas, Emma Lewell-Buck, Grahame Morris and Toby Perkins.

So, what next for this government? With parliamentary business out of the way, MPs are now heading home for their Christmas break. The hope in government is that they can all wind down and let the country have a quiet Brexit-free Christmas period. When MPs return in the new year, No. 10 will use a drastic reshuffle to push their agenda and show voters what they are prioritising. However, don't expect Brexit to come up much in conversation – figures in No. 10 are keen to de-dramatise the Brexit process as much as is possible and instead focus on domestic issues once the WAB has cleared the Commons in the first week back.

Written byKaty Balls

Katy Balls is The Spectator's deputy political editor. She is also a columnist for the i paper.

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