EU chief Ursula von der Leyen formally signs the Brexit divorce deal


Boris Johnson signed the Brexit divorce deal today, hailing the ‘fantastic moment’ that sends the UK officially on a path to quit the EU in a week’s time.

He put Parker pen to paper on the official copy of the Withdrawal Agreement in Downing Street this afternoon, ending months and months of bitter and divisive politics.

The Prime Minister voiced his hope that it ‘brings to an end far too many years of argument and division’ ahead of Brexit on January 31.

His actions in a Downing Street anteroom came hours after it was claimed that Mr Johnson wants to strike a ‘trailblazing’ trade deal with Japan by the autumn and before deals are done with the EU and US.

He 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.’

He put pen to paper on the official copy of the Withdrawal Agreement in Downing Street this afternoon, ending months and months of biter and divisive politics

 

After being signed by the PM it will go back to Brussels tonight and be deposited in the EU archive alongside other treaties

After being signed by the PM it will go back to Brussels tonight and be deposited in the EU archive alongside other treaties

The president of the European Commission, Ursula Von Der Leyen, endorsed the Withdrawal Agreement treaty struck between Britain and the bloc at a ceremony in Brussels this morning.  

What happens next on Brexit?

January 31: The UK will leave the EU at 11pm and enter into a standstill transition period.

February: The EU will agree a negotiating mandate for trade talks with the UK. 

End of February: Trade talks between the two sides will start.

December 2020: The end of the transition period and the hard deadline for a trade deal to be completed.  

She was joined by the president of the European Council Charles Michel and chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier. 

It was then brought to the UK with an escort of officials from both sides, No 10 said. 

After being signed by the PM it will go back to Brussels tonight and be deposited in the EU archive alongside other treaties.

The UK has three ‘certified copies’, one of which will be stored in the Foreign Office’s archive of international treaties.

The EU had demanded ownership of the original treaty.

Tory MPs welcomed the move. Transport minister George Freeman said the signing of the treaty proved ‘democracy is working’ after ‘three years of gridlock’. 

The result of the EU parliamentary vote is viewed as a formality with the UK now guaranteed to split from the EU at 11pm on the last day of this month. 

Ms von der Leyen’s signing of the treaty came as it was claimed that Mr Johnson wants to strike a ‘trailblazing’ trade deal with Japan by the autumn and before deals are done with the EU and US. 

Ursula von der Leyen signed the Withdrawal Agreement treaty this morning in Brussels. She was joined by Charles Michel (right) and Michel Barnier

Ursula von der Leyen signed the Withdrawal Agreement treaty this morning in Brussels. She was joined by Charles Michel (right) and Michel Barnier

The signing of the treaty means the UK's departure from the EU on January 31 is now all but guaranteed

The signing of the treaty means the UK’s departure from the EU on January 31 is now all but guaranteed

Downing Street reportedly believes that a quick deal is possible with Tokyo which would show the EU and the rest of the world that the UK is ‘ready to go’. 

New ‘Boris Bounce’ sees private sector boom

The UK private sector returned to growth for the first time in five months in January as business confidence was boosted by Boris Johnson‘s election win, new data revealed today.

An uplift in business confidence after the Conservatives won a majority in the general election helped to drive growth across the economy, as new work increased at the fastest rate since September 2018.

The findings came in the preliminary IHS Markit/CIPS composite purchasing managers index (PMI), which records private sector performance.

It had a reading of 52.4, a significant rebound from a reading of 49.3 in December and ahead of analysts’ forecasts of 50.7.

Any reading of above 50 reflects business growth and the preliminary figures showed significant upturns in the services and manufacturing sectors over the month.

Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit, said: ‘The survey data indicate an encouraging start to 2020 for the UK economy.

Japan was initially cold on the chances of the two sides doing a deal after Brexit but there has apparently been a change of heart in Shinzo Abe’s administration. 

The Sun reported that the Cabinet’s EU Exit Strategy Committee met yesterday to discuss the UK’s approach to post-Brexit trade talks. 

A Whitehall source told the newspaper: ‘The PM is very keen on the Japan deal now, and thinks we can use it as a bit of a trailblazer. 

‘It will show Brussels as well as the rest of the world we’re ready to go.’ 

It came as the EU continued to cast doubt on whether a comprehensive future partnership agreement will be able to be struck with the UK by the end of 2020. 

Mark Rutte, the Dutch PM, told Sky News in Davos that he believed the chances were ’50/50′. 

Asked to rate the likelihood of a full deal being done by the end of the Brexit transition period, he replied: ’50-50 because a year is not very long.

‘And if the UK is really not willing to ask for an extension then we run the risk that we might get a cliff edge again.’

The UK will leave the EU on January 31 and will then enter into a standstill transition period during which the two sides will try to hammer out a complete trade deal. 

Mr Johnson is adamant that he will not agree to extend the transition period and that December 2020 must be viewed as a hard deadline. 

Mark Rutte, the Dutch PM pictured in Davos, Switzerland yesterday, said he believed the chances of a trade deal being agreed by December 2020 were '50/50'

Mark Rutte, the Dutch PM pictured in Davos, Switzerland yesterday, said he believed the chances of a trade deal being agreed by December 2020 were ’50/50′

But the EU is deeply sceptical that a comprehensive agreement on the future partnership can be agreed so quickly and has pushed for the deadline to be pushed back.   

The Brexit deal finally became law yesterday as Mr Johnson’s European Union Withdrawal Agreement Bill was given Royal Assent by the Queen, making it an Act of Parliament. 

The legislation was needed to ensure there is an orderly Brexit at the end of the month. 

Mr Johnson said the successful completion of the passage of the so-called WAB means the UK could now ‘move forwards’.

‘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.’ 

Three years of Brexit chaos: Key dates in the wrangling 

June 21, 2016: The UK votes to leave the EU in the referendum. 

July 13, 2016: Theresa May becomes PM after seeing off challenges from Boris Johnson and Michael Gove.

March 29, 2017: Theresa May formally notifies the EU that the UK is triggering the Article 50 process for leaving the bloc. 

June 8, 2017: The Tories lose their majority in the snap election called by Mrs May in a bid to strengthen her hand on Brexit. Mrs May manages to stay in power propped up by the DUP.

July 12, 2018: Mrs May forces her blueprint for the future relationship with the EU through Cabinet during lengthy talks at Chequers. But both David Davis and Boris Johnson resign afterwards.  

November 2018: Mrs May finally strikes a Withdrawal Agreement with the EU, and it is approved by Cabinet – although Esther McVey and Dominic Raab resign. 

December 2018: Mrs May sees off a vote of no confidence in her leadership triggered by Tory MP furious about her Brexit deal. 

January 15-16, 2019: Mrs May loses first Commons vote on her Brexit deal by a massive 230 votes. But she sees off a Labour vote of no confidence in the government.

March 12, 2019: Despite tweaks following talks with the EU, Mrs May’s deal is defeated for a second time by 149 votes.

March 29, 2019: Mrs May’s deal is defeated for a third time by a margin of 58 votes. 

May 24, 2019: Mrs May announces she will resign on June 7, triggering a Tory leadership contest.

July 23-24, 2019: Mr Johnson wins the Tory leadership battle after solemnly vowing that Brexit will not be extended beyond October 31, and becomes PM the following day.

August 28, 2019: Mr Johnson announces he wants to prorogue Parliament from September 10.

September 3-4, 2019: MPs seize control of Commons business and pass a law requiring a Brexit extension to avoid No Deal. Mr Johnson tries to call a snap general election but does not secure the two-thirds majority of MPs needed. 

September 24, 2019: The Supreme Court declares the prorogation of Parliament illegal.

October 21, 2019: Mr Johnson strikes a new Brexit deal with the EU, incorporating many elements of Mrs May’s but deleting the Northern irish backstop and proposing a much looser alignment. 

October 22, 2019: MPs approve Mr Johnson’s deal at second reading stage in a major breakthrough – but they vote down his proposed timetable and vow to try to amend the Bill later. The PM responds by pausing the legislation and again demanding an election.  

October 29, 2019: MPs finally vote for an election, after the SNP and Lib Dems broke ranks to vote in favour, forcing the Labour leadership to agree.

December 12, 2019: The Tories win a stunning 80 majority after vowing to ‘get Brexit done’ during the campaign.

December 20, 2019: The new-look Commons passes Mr Johnson’s Withdrawal Bill by a majority of 124.  

January 9: The EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill cleared its final Commons stages. 

January 22: EU Withdrawal Bill completes its passage through Parliament.

January 23: The EU withdrawal Agreement Bill is given Royal Assent by the Queen and it becomes an Act of Parliament.

January 24: EU chief Ursula von der Leyen formally signs the Withdrawal Agreement Treaty with Boris Johnson due to do the same.

January 29: The European Parliament will meet in Brussels to vote on the Brexit deal. The result is a formality.

11pm, January 31: The UK formally leaves the EU – although it will stay bound to the bloc’s rules for at least another 11 months during the transition period. 

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says the White House wants a post-Brexit trade deal with the UK done and dusted THIS YEAR in major boost for Boris Johnson

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin today said the White House wants to agree a post-Brexit trade deal with the UK before the end of the year.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the senior ally of Donald Trump said Britain is ‘top of the list of trade agreements’ which the US administration wants to get in the books. 

Describing the UK as ‘our number one ally’, Mr Mnuchin said the US ‘look forward’ to concluding an agreement with Downing Street ‘this year’. 

He said: ‘The UK is our number one ally and it would be at the top of the list of trade agreements. We look forward to getting that done this year.’

His comments represent a massive boost for Boris Johnson as the Prime Minister prepares the government for post-Brexit trade talks. 

Steven Mnuchin, the US Treasury Secretary pictured in Davos, Switzerland today, said of a trade deal with the UK: 'We look forward to getting that done this year.'

Steven Mnuchin, the US Treasury Secretary pictured in Davos, Switzerland today, said of a trade deal with the UK: ‘We look forward to getting that done this year.’

As a member of the European Union the UK is currently barred from negotiating its own trade deals. 

But as soon as Britain splits from Brussels on January 31 at 11pm it will be able to pursue its own agreements.

The UK is expected to negotiate a deal with the US at the same time as it discusses one with the EU. 

Brexiteers hope the dual talks strategy and the prospect of a swift deal with the US will stop the EU from dragging its feet during talks. 

Meanwhile, today it emerged that the PM also wants to target a quick trade deal with Japan to show Brussels the UK is ready to move speedily.  

The EU must agree a mandate for trade talks with the UK and it can only do that once Britain has left the bloc. 

That means the start of negotiations could be delayed until the end of February or even the start of March. 

Once the UK leaves the EU at the end of this month the two sides will enter a standstill transition period when the terms of the future partnership will be hammered out. 

That transition period will finish in December and Mr Johnson is adamant he will not sanction an extension, insisting the end of the year must be viewed as a hard deadline for a deal to be done. 

Mr Mnuchin's comments represent a massive boost to Boris Johnson, pictured in Downing Street today celebrating Chinese New Year, who is hoping the prospect of a swift US trade deal will prompt the EU to also move quickly on a future partnership agreement

Mr Mnuchin’s comments represent a massive boost to Boris Johnson, pictured in Downing Street today celebrating Chinese New Year, who is hoping the prospect of a swift US trade deal will prompt the EU to also move quickly on a future partnership agreement

But the EU does not believe 11 months is long enough to agree a comprehensive deal, raising the prospect of the transition period ending without a full agreement in place.  

If the UK has a trade deal with the US already agreed it would lessen the impact of a chaotic split from the EU at the end of the year and make the bloc more likely to work at pace, Brexiteers have argued. 

Mr Mnuchin’s intervention came as it was reported that the EU has accepted the transition period will not be extended. 

A senior official with the bloc said: ‘We can assume at this point that the transition period will end on December 31, 2020.’

 



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