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Brexit bill crosses UK Parliament finish line

By Aditi Khanna
January 23, 2020 16:15 IST

The United Kingdom’s so-called divorce agreement with the European Union has crossed the Parliament finish line, setting in motion the final stages for Britain's exit from the 28-member economic bloc on January 31.

IMAGE: Pro-Brexit campaigners hold placards near the Houses of Parliament in London, England. Photograph: Hollie Adams/Getty Images

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed in a statement on Thursday that the European Union Withdrawal Agreement Bill has cleared its parliamentary stages and is now awaiting Royal Assent by Queen Elizabeth II before it goes on for EU ratification.

 

"Parliament has passed the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, meaning we will leave the EU on January 31 and move forwards as one United Kingdom. At times it felt like we would never cross the Brexit finish line, but we've done it," said Johnson, who won a landslide victory in last month's general election on the platform that he will 'Get Brexit Done'.

"Now we can put the rancour and division of the past three years behind us and focus on delivering a bright, exciting future – with better hospitals and schools, safer streets and opportunity spread to every corner of our country," he said.

Downing Street said it expects European Council President Charles Michel and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen to sign the agreement in Brussels on Friday, following which it comes back for Johnson's signature in the UK.

The European Parliament is set to hold its consent vote on the Bill next Wednesday.

Once the legal processes have been completed, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab will sign the UK's "instrument of ratification", which will then be deposited in Brussels ahead of the exit day.

In Brussels, the EU will do the same in order for the UK to formally leave at 23:00 GMT next Friday.

From February 1, the UK enters into an agreed 11-month transition period in which it will continue to follow EU rules but without representation at any of the economic bloc's institutions.

This arrangement will come to an end on January 1, 2021, by which time the two sides hope to have completed negotiations on their future economic and security partnership as part of a new agreement.

The bill crossing its parliamentary threshold marks a landmark moment after the UK voted in favour of Brexit in a referendum in June 2016.

A lack of government majority proved a stumbling block to getting any Brexit agreement over the line for Johnson's predecessor Theresa May. The landscape transformed after the December 2019 snap poll, which handed Boris Johnson a thumping 80-seat majority largely on the back of his Brexit agenda.

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Aditi Khanna
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