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'Our friendship will remain': EU chiefs sign off on Brexit Withdrawal Agreement

The UK is set to leave the EU at the end of the month.

President of the European Council, Charles Michel, alongside Ursula von der Leyen and Michel Barnier, as he signs the UK Withdrawal Agreement.
President of the European Council, Charles Michel, alongside Ursula von der Leyen and Michel Barnier, as he signs the UK Withdrawal Agreement.
Image: Charles Michel/Twitter

THE UK IS set to leave the EU at the end of January, after EU chiefs signed off on the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated with Boris Johnson. 

Charles Michel, the President of the European Council, confirmed this morning that he had signed the Withdrawal Agreement. 

The document, agreed between the UK and the EU after years of back-and-forth negotiations, was also signed by the new President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. 

Queen Elizabeth II gave royal assent to the legislation for Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, paving the way for the UK to leave the European Union with an agreement at the end of January – almost four years after 2016’s Leave vote.

The agreement still needs to be approved by the European Parliament before Brexit day, with a vote expected on 29 January.

The UK government’s withdrawal legislation cleared parliament on Wednesday after peers, who had tried to secure additional rights including for unaccompanied child refugees, bowed to the will of MPs once the elected chamber overturned their demands.

Johnson said the country would “move forwards as one United Kingdom”, adding that “at times it felt like we would never cross the Brexit finish line, but we’ve done it.”

“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.”

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 31 December deadline.

Trade experts have warned that negotiating a comprehensive trade deal with the EU could prove difficult, especially in such a short time frame. Critics of Brexit have also said that the UK could still end up facing a no-deal scenario if an agreement isn’t reached before the deadline. 

With the general election campaign ongoing in Ireland, it’s expected that the next taoiseach – whether Leo Varadkar or Micheál Martin – will play a key role in navigating trade talks with the UK. 

With reporting from Press Association

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