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OUT IN 41 DAYS; OPPOSITION MPs BRAND JOHNSON'S PLAN RECKLESS BoJo's bloated majority passes Brexit bill to make Britain leave EU on Jan 31 Deal branded 'devastating' as Tories abandon workers' rights and environment.

Byline: ANDY PHILIP Political Correspondent

BORIS Johnson's Brexit deal was slammed as "devastating" last night after the Tories pushed Britain closer to leaving the EU.

In a historic vote at the Commons, Johnson's new majority government comfortably pushed a revised deal over the line, all but guaranteeing a symbolic January 31 deadline.

Ian Blackford, the SNP's Westminster leader, said Tories have stripped away vital safeguards and warned the real struggle starts with trade negotiations in February.

Six Labour MPs ignored their party's orders to side with the Tories.

And the Scottish Government confirmed it will refuse consent to the plan at Holyrood - a move Johnson is expected to ignore.

After the vote, Blackford said: "Boris Johnson's redrafted Brexit deal has gone from bad to devastating - shamefully rowing back on commitments to protect child refugees, abandoning workers' rights and environmental standards and banning Parliament from extending the transition period, ramping up the risk of a no-deal Brexit.

"The Tories' toxic Brexit Bill presents a clear and present danger to Scotland, is a stain on the UK's standing on the international stage and it will do nothing less than inflict lasting harm on our public services, economy and people's livelihoods.

"The people of Scotland did not vote for Brexit and with the SNP returning with a greater mandate, it's clear that Scotland still rejects Brexit."

In a packed Commons, Johnson secured a majority of 124 in the second reading of his European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill. It came one week after he won a majority of 80 MPs in the General Election.

Britain is due to formally leave the EU on January 31 but a transition period is set to run until December 31 next year.

Failure to get the details right in those 11 months could see a return to the feared no-deal exit, with potentially dire consequences for the economy. In a bizarre speech, littered with references to Gulliver's Travels and Romeo and Juliet, Johnson said: "This is the time when we move on and discard the old labels of Leave and Remain. 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."

And in an odd conclusion, he added: "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, still in post despite his election defeat, said the Government's handling of Brexit has been a "national embarrassment".

He added: "Labour will not support this Bill as we remain certain there is a better and fairer way for this country to leave the EU. One which would not risk ripping our communities apart, selling out our public services or sacrificing hundreds of thousands of jobs in the process.

"This deal is a road map for the reckless direction in which the Government and our Prime Minister are determined to take our country."

Many of the Government's opponents stood to warn Brexit will not be "done" next month. Newly elected SNP MP Alyn Smith, a long-serving member of the European Parliament, said: "I assure you today's vote will live in infamy. It is not the end of Brexit. It's the start of something far worse." Scotland's Brexit Secretary, Michael Russell, wrote to the UK Government yesterday outlining opposition to the plan. It's part of a process designed to stop Westminster ruling on matters which cut across devolved government.

But it is just a convention and the UK Government can overrule it if they want.

Russell said: "The UK Government should work to build consensus, with the full involvement of the devolved administrations, rather than rush to impose its own narrow views on everyone else."

How the blueprint has been changed BORIS Johnson's Brexit blueprint has changed since it was first published in October.

The tweaks reflect his new majority but have infuriated opponents, who say they dilute key concessions and rights.

WHAT'S BEEN CHANGED?? The Brexit deadline after negotiations will be set in law for midnight on December 31 next year.

. ? Alignment with the EU on workers' rights has been ditched.

. ? Protections have been dropped for unaccompanied refugee children seeking to reunite with family in the UK. ? A clause giving MPs the right to extend the transition period has been wiped out. ? Requirement for MPs' approval of negotiations in the next phase of talks is gone.

. ? A commitment to keeping the Government's negotiating position in line with the political declaration has been removed.

. ? Parliamentary scrutiny powers have been watered down.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? The Bill passed its second reading by 124 votes so can now go to the next stage.

The Government has set aside just three days next month for further scrutiny.

The European Parliament is likely to ratify the deal on January 29.

The official leave date is all but guaranteed to be January 31.

And, far from getting Brexit done, that's when the hard work begins with an ambitious 11-month period for trade negotiations.

It better go well, because it all ends, deal or no deal on Hogmanay next year.

CAPTION(S):

NO CONSENT Ian Blackford slammed Bill

BIZARRE Boris Johnson's speech in the House of Commons. Pic: UK Parliamentary Recording Unit/Rex
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Author:ANDY PHILIP Political Correspondent
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Dec 21, 2019
Words:878
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