On 15 January 2019, the House of Commons voted with 230 votes against the Brexit withdrawal agreement the largest vote against the British government in history.  The government may survived a vote of confidence the next day.  On March 12, 2019, the House of Commons voted 149 votes against the agreement, the fourth-biggest defeat of the government in the history of the House of Commons.  A third vote on the Brexit withdrawal agreement, widely expected on 19 March 2019, was rejected by the House of Commons spokesman on 18 March 2019, on the basis of a parliamentary convention of 2 April 1604, which prevented British governments from forcing the House of Commons to vote several times on a subject already voted on by the House of Commons.    An abbreviated version of the withdrawal agreement, in which the annex political statement had been withdrawn, consisted of the test of “substantial amendments,” so that a third vote was held on 29 March 2019, but was rejected by 58 votes.  The agreement also provides for a transitional period that extends until 31 December 2020 and can be extended by mutual agreement. During the transitional period, EU legislation will continue to apply to the UK (including participation in the European Economic Area, the internal market and the customs union) and the UK will continue to contribute to the EU budget, but the UK will not be represented in EU decision-making bodies. The transition period will give businesses time to adapt to the new situation and the new era, so that the British and European governments can negotiate a new trade agreement between the EU and the UK.  On the issue of the Irish border, there is a protocol on Northern Ireland (the “backstop”) which is attached to the agreement and establishes a position of withdrawal that will only come into force if effective alternative arrangements are not demonstrated before the end of the transitional period. In this case, the UK will eclipse the EU`s common external tariff and Northern Ireland will stick to aspects of the internal market until such an event is carried out. Neither party can unilaterally withdraw from this customs union.
The aim of this backstop agreement is to avoid a “hard” border in Ireland, where customs controls are needed.  On 22 October 2019, the House of Commons agreed, by 329 votes to 299, to give a second reading to the revised withdrawal agreement (negotiated by Boris Johnson earlier this month), but when the accelerated timetable it had proposed did not receive the necessary parliamentary support, Johnson announced that the legislation would be paused.   The signatures mark a new stage in the ratification process after Parliament passed the Brexit Act earlier this week. The European Parliament will vote on the agreement on 29 January. The withdrawal agreement provides for a transitional period until 31 December 2020, during which time the UK will remain in the internal market, to ensure the smooth flow of trade until a long-term relationship is concluded. If no agreement is reached by then, the UK will leave the single market without a trade deal on 1 January 2021. The withdrawal agreement is closely linked to a non-binding political declaration on future relations between the EU and the UK. The Prime Minister hailed a “fantastic moment” for the country after embarking on the historic agreement that paves the way for the UK`s exit from the European Union next Friday.