Britain's freshly-elected parliament prepared on 20 December 2019 to move past years of partisan wrangling and initially approve Prime Minister Boris Johnson's divorce deal with the EU. The all-but-certain outcome in the lower House of Commons will help Johnson on his way towards meeting his winning campaign promise to "get Brexit done" on January 31. But it will also push London and Brussels closer to another cliff edge at the end of 2020 that might disrupt decades of unfettered trade. A snap election last week put Johnson's Conservatives in control of parliament and dispelled doubts over whether Britain would become the first nation to leave the European Union.
  1. A final vote on Johnson's separation terms will come when lawmakers return from their Christmas break early next month.
  2. But Britain will enter the holiday season closer to legal and economic independence from Brussels than it has been at any point since the 2016 Brexit referendum on Britain's near half-century EU membership.
  3. Johnson has the freedom and power to shape Britain's future that his predecessor Theresa May never had during her troubled three-year term.
  4. Today we will deliver on the promise we made to the people and get the Brexit vote wrapped up for Christmas.
  5. Now MPs will start the process of passing the bill. Then, at the beginning of the new decade, at the beginning of a new dawn for our country, our parliamentarians will return to Westminster to immediately finish the job, take us out of the EU on January 31 and move this country forward.
  6. After years of delay and rancour in parliament, we will deliver certainty and hard-working businesses and people across this country will have a firm foundation on which to plan for the future."
  7. Britain's nervous financial market rejoiced when Johnson's governing Conservatives secured a comprehensive majority in the 650-member House of Commons.
  8. The healthy margin appeared to remove the possibility of more months of political uncertainty and chaos -- and of Britain crashing out of the bloc without any arrangements for what comes next.
  9. But the pound fell back to its pre-election levels when Johnson introduced a series of small but potentially consequential changes into the official Withdrawal Agreement Bill.
  10. Britain's formal departure on January 31 had been due to be followed by an 11-month transition period during which things would stay pretty much as they are now.
  11. The sides are supposed to use the time to negotiate a comprehensive new agreement covering everything from trade to security and data protection. EU officials warn that such deals usually take years to hammer out.
The changes include:
  1. Legally prohibiting the government from extending the transition period - during which a trade deal between the UK and EU will be discussed - beyond 31 December 2020
  2. Allowing more UK courts to reconsider European Court of Justice rulings that have been retained in UK law after Brexit
  3. Requiring ministers to report annually to Parliament on disputes with the EU under the prime minister's withdrawal agreement
  4. Repealing spent legislation that "now serves no purpose"
  5. The bill also loses a previous clause on strengthening workers' rights.