European Union chiefs sign Brexit deal ahead of parliamentary vote

Nellie Chapman
January 25, 2020

The signing comes after nearly three years of negotiations in the Parliament and the European Union to determine the terms of the withdrawal agreement.

The only hurdle left to formal ratification now is royal assent by Queen Elizabeth II, paving the way for Britain to leave the European Union on Jan 31.

The presidents of the European Council, Charles Michel, and the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, had previously officially signed the agreement in Brussels.

Michel tweeted: "Things will inevitably change but our friendship will continue".

MPs in the Lower House of Commons had already backed the EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill, which ratifies the divorce deal that Prime Minister Boris Johnson struck with Brussels past year.

The move could potentially result in taxes of 10 percent on cars from Germany and 30 percent on some types of French cheese, while several countries, such as Japan, the US, Australia and New Zealand, will reportedly be prioritised and marked as "tier one" states during trade talks.

On Thursday the withdrawal agreement received royal assent from the Queen.

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EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier was also present at the ceremony, held at the EU Commission's headquarters.

It will be the beginning of an 11-month transition period during which the United Kingdom will continue to comply with European Union rules before the final break with Brussels begins at the end of the year.

If a trade deal is not ready in time, the United Kingdom can expect checks and tariffs on United Kingdom products going to the EU.

The UK is set to enter a transition period in February, during which the relationship with Brussels will remain the same while trade talks are finalised before the tight December 31 deadline.

The prime minister hailed the crossing of the "Brexit finish line" after the EU Withdrawal Agreement Act passed into law, despite months of looming fresh negotiations with Brussels to agree a trade deal.

Mr Johnson said: "At times it felt like we would never cross the Brexit finish line, but we've done it".

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