Boris Johnson: 'No Leavers and Remainers anymore' as MPs pass Brexit deal

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn take part in the State Opening of parliament
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn take part in the State Opening of parliament
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MPs have voted in favour of the Brexit deal after Boris Johnson said Leave and Remain should be retired as political labels.

The Commons voted to pass the Withdrawal Agreement Bill at second reading by 358 votes to 234, a majority of 124, giving the Prime Minister a big victory before Christmas. As the result was read out, one Tory MP was heard shouting: "Back of the net".

Opening the debate on Friday morning, Mr Johnson told MPs it was “time to act together as one reinvigorated nation”.

But he was attacked by opposition leaders for watering down commitments to take unaccompanied child refugees from Europe, and removing legal guarantees within the Withdrawal Agreement Bill on workers rights and parliamentary scrutiny of trade negotiations.

“This is the time when we move on and discard the old labels of Leave and Remain,” Mr Johnson said.

"In fact, the very words seem tired to me - as defunct as Big-enders and Little-enders, or Montagues and Capulets at the end of the play.

"Now is the time to act together as one reinvigorated nation, one United Kingdom, filled with renewed confidence in our national destiny and determined at last to take advantage of the opportunities that now lie before us."

The revised legislation also imposes a legal guarantee that the post-Brexit transition phase will end in December 2020 whether a trade agreement has been reached with Brussels or not, leading critics to warn of a new risk of a no-deal scenario.

Mr Johnson told MPs there was “no possibility of an extension” to the implementation phase, and said his government would seek “an ambitious free trade agreement with no alignment” with EU rules.

"This vision of the United Kingdom's independence, a vision that inspires so many, is now if this Parliament, this new Parliament allows, only hours from our grasp,” he said.

"The oven is on, so to speak, it is set at gas mark 4, we can have it done by lunchtime, or late lunch."

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn labelled the government's handling of Brexit as a "national embarrassment" and confirmed his party would oppose the “terrible” deal.

And Mr Corbyn said the removal of sections of the legislation relating to offering sanctuary to orphans and unaccompanied children “nothing short of an absolute disgrace”.

"Throughout the last Parliament, and for his whole life, and I was talking to him last night, my good friend Lord Dubs has worked tirelessly to ensure children affected by the worst aspects of global injustice can be given sanctuary in this country,” the Labour leader said.

"Now this Government in its first week in office has ripped up those very hard-won commitments."

He added: "I simply say this: coming to up to Christmas shame on this Government for abandoning children in this way."

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said Mr Johnson was "blindly hurtling towards the cliff-edge" with his "deeply damaging" Brexit plans.

Mr Blackford said independence was the only way of Scotland avoiding being taken out of the EU, noting that under the terms of the Brexit deal, the Northern Irish people had a say over the terms of their relationship with the bloc.

The SNP Westminster leader took on the government over its insistence that the 2014 independence referendum had been a “once in a generation event”, arguing that there was nothing in the Edinburgh Agreement setting out the terms of that vote that ruled out indyref2.

“Let me just nail once and for all this issue about once in a generation, because it was made clear in the agreement signed between the two governments that it did not obstruct a future independence referendum,” Mr Blackford said. “That is the fact of the matter.”