EU officials sign-off Withdrawal Agreement ahead of January 31st

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire.

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

The presidents of the European Commission and European Council have signed the Withdrawal Agreement as Britain heads toward Brexit day on January 31st.

The Queen 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 the EU referendum.

Following MPs and peers voting to approve the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement and Queen Elizabeth's rubber stamping, commission president Ursula von der Leyen and council president Charles Michel signed the document that will allow Britain to leave the EU next week.

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

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.

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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.

On Thursday Boris Johnson was warned off a "constitutional crisis" following news of the legislation's royal assent despite governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland voting against.

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The government's withdrawal legislation had 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.

The PM said the nation would "move forwards as one United Kingdom", adding: "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."

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