Johnson’s Brexit on track as opposition amendments defeated
Boris Johnson returned to parliament from his festive break this week with a spring in his step, knowing that a majority of 80 was going to open up his opportunity to as he has said for three months, “Get Brexit done”.
Theresa May spent her time at the despatch box wrangling with the opposition, as well was her own party, but now the way is pretty much clear for the PM to do as he wants.
MPs have been engaged in two days of debate, in committee, this week over The Withdrawal Agreement assessing the legislation line by line. However, any outrage or attempts to alter the Bill have fallen on stoney ground, because the numbers able to oppose the government simply do not stack up anymore.
Calls to include protections for unaccompanied child refugees, to protect Northern Irish interests, and for parliament to approve future trade relationships with the EU after Brexit were all defeated by huge majorities, highlighting the incredible power that the PM now has in Westminster.
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.
There was one clause in particular that has outraged many, and is likely to be heard about more in this parliamentary session. Clause 26 of the legislation allows government ministers to determine the circumstances when lower courts can depart from rulings of higher courts, thus tainting the legal system with a political bias.
The overall sense is that this has come about because the PM’s proroguing of parliament was deemed illegal by the Supreme Court, unanimously, and this gives Johnson the opportunity to act with carte blanche in the future.
The first week of Johnson’s new parliament, indicates that the opposition has a lot of work to do to stop them taking liberties with their majority, so a fiery session is indicated.
Could Brexit really be reversed in these circumstances? It looks very unlikely.