LONDON (AP) – Britain took a big step towards the European Union exit door on Friday when lawmakers gave preliminary approval to Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson´s EU divorce bill in a decisive vote that broke years of political deadlock over Brexit.
The House of Commons, with its Conservative ranks swollen after Johnson’s election victory last week, voted 358-234 for the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, clearing the way for the UK to leave the European Union next month.
Friday’s vote was a moment of triumph for Johnson, who won a commanding parliamentary majority in last week´s general election on a promise to end more than three years of political gridlock and lead Britain out of the European Union on Jan. 31.
Jubilant Conservative lawmakers gathered around the prime minister in the House of Commons after the vote, getting him to sign their copies of the bill. Opposition lawmakers looked despondent.
“The election has produced a result: We will leave the EU at the end of January,” acknowledged pro-EU Liberal Democrat legislator Wera Hobhouse. “The battle to stop Brexit is over.”
The bill will receive more scrutiny and possible amendment next month when lawmakers return from a two-week holiday break, and it also has to be approved by Parliament´s unelected upper chamber, the House of Lords. But Johnson´s parliamentary majority means it is almost certain to become law in January. Britain would then leave the EU on Jan. 31.