Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal a step closer to becoming law

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, Londo

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London. PA Photo. Picture date: Wednesday January 8, 2020. See PA story POLITICS PMQs Johnson. Photo credit should read: House of Commons/PA Wire - Credit: PA

The House of Commons have failed to prevent another win for Boris Johnson's government over Brexit.

The government comfortably defeated opposition attempts to amend the Withdrawal Agreement Bill after two days of debate at committee stage, where MPs had the chance to assess the legislation line by line.

It will undergo report stage, where further amendments can be tabled, and third reading on Thursday before heading to the House of Lords next week for further scrutiny.

The prime minister's 80-seat majority secured at last month's general election has neutralised attempts by the opposition parties to make changes to the bill.

Calls were made for the legislation to include improved protections for unaccompanied child refugees after Brexit and Northern Ireland's interests, plus for parliamentary approval of the future trade relationship agreed with the EU.

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But amendments connected to these measures were defeated by large majorities and ministers attempted to offer assurances when speaking from the despatch box.

Conservative former minister Sir Bob Neill used day two of debate to tell MPs he is "concerned" about clause 26 of the bill, which allows government ministers to specify the circumstances in which lower courts can depart from the rulings of higher courts.

MORE: Here's who voted against protecting key child refugee rights after Brexit

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Sir Bob pressed ministers for more detail and explanation as to the need for the clause, adding that it "has raised concern by many lawyers, regardless of political view".

The SNP's Joanna Cherry added that the clause could be "an act of revenge on the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom and the Supreme Court of Scotland for daring to defy the previous Conservative government for ruling its unlawful prorogation out of order".

Labour's shadow Brexit minister Thangam Debbonaire also called for MPs to be given a greater role in shaping the UK's future relationship with the EU.

She said: "The government has totally removed the process of parliamentary scrutiny over the negotiations for the future relationship with the EU."

But Tory former minister Sir Desmond Swayne criticised Labour by saying "for most of the time there was nobody there at all" on the opposite benches.

Debbonaire responded: "I think the honourable gentleman is very well aware that the Labour Party had leadership hustings last night and that the frontbench was here and fully engaged."

Brexit minister James Duddridge later dismissed attempts to amend the bill on sovereignty matters.

He said: "I think we will have more influence, we will have influence with the Americans, the Americans want to do a trade deal with us early, we will work with other international partners.

"The WTO (World Trade Organisation) has been of immense value in liberalising trade and in many ways EU trading within itself has been a block on liberalisation of global trade whilst it has opened out trade within the EU."

On the SNP's amendment calling for an economic impact assessment of measures that the bill would implement, Duddridge said the government "has previously published an impact assessment in support of the Bill" which is "detailed and robust and covers a broad range of scenarios".

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