24 January 2020 | UK NEWS
Following the Government’s EU Withdrawal Act receiving Royal Assent yesterday, the Withdrawal Agreement itself has now been formally signed by both UK and EU leaders today.
The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, and the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, signed the document earlier today, after which it was transported to Britain by EU and UK Foreign Office officials. Prime Minister Boris Johnson then added his own signature to the document during a ceremonial signing at Number 10 Downing Street. The Prime Minister later tweeted the following:
In a press statement released by Downing Street, Boris Johnson said: “The signing of the Withdrawal Agreement is a fantastic moment, which finally delivers the result of the 2016 referendum and brings to an end far too many years of argument and division.
“We can now move forward as one country – with a Government focused upon delivering better public services, greater opportunity and unleashing the potential of every corner of our brilliant United Kingdom, while building a strong new relationship with the EU as friends and sovereign equals.”
As we have reported previously, the only remaining formality in order to guarantee Britain’s departure from the EU at 11pm on 31 January is a vote in the European Parliament on the matter, currently expected on Wednesday. However, as with the Queen’s granting of Royal Assent yesterday, there is no reason to believe at this point that it will not be approved.
The news formally heralds the start of an 11-month Transition Period beginning at the end of this month, during which the UK will continue to follow EU laws and regulations and make budgetary contributions. All of this will then cease at the end of this year, by which time the UK Government anticipates it will have negotiated an “ambitious” future partnership with the EU, albeit one that does not involve close alignment with its regulatory framework. The EU, as ever, remains skeptical of this.
If no agreement can be reached, then the UK will depart the EU on World Trade Organisation terms by default, and without any further arrangements. The current anticipation is that some manner of ‘bare-bones’ deal remains achievable within this timeframe, with the potential for a more nuanced future relationship to be negotiated thereafter. In the meantime, the UK will begin negotiating Free Trade Agreements with other countries around the world, including friendly major economies such as the US.
We will bring you further coverage of the final stage – the vote in the European Parliament – once this has taken place next Wednesday.