Boris Johnson’s Brexit plans passes at second reading despite ‘binned’ compromises

PUBLISHED: 14:34 20 December 2019 | UPDATED: 14:46 20 December 2019

Boris Johnson speaking during a debate in the House of Commons. Photograph: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA Wire

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Boris Johnson speaking during a debate in the House of Commons. Photograph: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA Wire .

HOC/JESSICA TAYLOR

Boris Johnson’s Brexit plans is a step closer to being approved by the House of Commons after the Withdrawal Agreement Bill passed the second reading.

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It came as the prime minister faced accusations he had "binned" his withdrawal deal compromises in favour of a hard Brexit as MPs prepare to vote on his exit terms.

The government, as part of a re-drafted Brexit Bill, looked to have rowed back on an original commitment to strike a deal with the EU so child refugees in Europe can continue to be reunited with their families in the UK, even after free movement ends.

Clause 37 of the Bill replaces the pledge with a watered-down vow for ministers to "make a statement" on the progress of the talks once the divorce with Brussels is complete.

Sir Keir Starmer, Labour's shadow Brexit secretary, told the Guardian: "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."

Downing Street said forthcoming legislation would show the government's commitment to upholding rights and protections after exit day.

"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 Number 10.

MPs today passed the Brexit Bill at its second reading by 358 votes to 234 and will return for its final stages in both the Commons and the House of Lords in the New Year before achieving Royal Assent.

The timetable paves the way for the UK to leave the EU by the January 31 deadline and for trade talks to commence.

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