Brexit Withdrawal Agreement Signed by EU Leaders
The Withdrawal Agreement for the United Kingdom to exit the European Union was signed by EU leaders today in an understated signing ceremony in Brussels. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel signed the agreement ahead of the UK’s exit from the EU on January 31st.
Brexit will mark the end of the UK’s 46-year membership of a European alliance.
On signing the agreement, President of the European Council, Charles Michel tweeted, ‘Things will inevitably change but our friendship will remain. We start a new chapter as partners and allies.’
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michael Barnier, who worked for three years to hammer out a deal was also present for the signing of the agreement. Under its terms, the UK will abide by EU rules for a transition period to the end of this year, put in place to pave the way for a smooth withdrawal.
The UK Government is insistent that it will have negotiated the terms of a host of issues including trade by 2021, but EU representatives have raised question marks over this timeline, suggesting it is not adequate.
In the UK the Queen approved the agreement on Thursday. This followed an attempt by the House of Lords, the UK’s upper house of Parliament, to secure additional rights under the terms of the agreement. This attempt was however, overruled by Members of Parliament in the House of Commons.
The European Parliament is expected to vote to ratify the agreement next week.
The agreement is now on its way back to the UK to be signed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Speaking earlier this week, Mr. Johnson said, ‘at times it felt like we would never cross the Brexit finish line, but we’ve done it.’
He said, ‘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.’
MEPs are set to debate and vote on the agreement next Wednesday January 29th. On Thursday the 30th, diplomats from the EU member states are expected to give their written consent before the UK officially departs the European Union on Friday 31st at midnight Central European Time.
(Image from European Union via Europa.eu)