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‘Fantastic moment’: UK PM Boris Johnson signs Brexit withdrawal deal

The UK leader signed the agreement in Downing Street, seated in front of two Union Jack flags, with European and British officials who had brought it from Brussels looking on.

SNS | New Delhi |

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday hailed “a new chapter” in Britain’s history as he signed its divorce treaty with the European Union and that cleared another hurdle before the country exits the bloc next on Friday.

It allows Britain to end its decades-long membership of the European Union and leave its closest neighbours and trading partners after several years of domestic acrimony and delays.

PM Johnson said in a statement, “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”.

Taking to Twitter, Johnson said, “This signature heralds a new chapter in our nation’s history,” he added on Twitter, alongside a photo of the occasion.

The prime minister further added on Twitter, “Today I have signed the Withdrawal Agreement for the UK to leave the EU on January 31st, honouring the democratic mandate of the British people.

EU chiefs Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel had already put their names to the treaty overnight at a ceremony held behind closed doors in the early hours of the morning.

“The signing 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,” Johnson told the media on Friday night.

“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 UK, while building a strong new relationship with the EU as friends and sovereign equals.”

The UK will keep a copy of the agreement while the original will return to Brussels, where it will be stored in an archive along with other historic international agreements.

On January 23, the House of Commons (lower house of British parliament) overturned five amendments to the government’s Brexit bill made by the House of Lords (upper house), less than 10 days before Britain is set to exit from the European Union (EU).

The bill, which ensures Britain leaves the EU on Jan. 31, will pass between the Houses until both sides agree on the wording. Once the process is finished, it will go to the palace for Royal Assent by Queen Elizabeth II.

Earlier in the month, during a meeting with the new European Commission (EC) chief Ursula von der Leyen, PM Johnson stressed on the importance of Britain and the European Union (EU) to reach a trade deal by the end of the year.

Once the UK leaves the EU on January 31, the two sides will begin talks on their future economic relationship.

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said that the UK and EU had agreed in the political declaration to do a trade deal by the end of this year and they were “confident” they will do that, the BBC reported.

After Johnson claimed huge victory, European leaders will charge EU negotiator Michel Barnier with negotiating a close trade deal with Britain.

A landslide Conservative win would mark the ultimate failure of opponents of Brexit who plotted to thwart a 2016 referendum vote through legislative combat in parliament and prompted some of the biggest protests in recent British history.

Johnson was re-elected Prime Minister following his landslide victory in the December 12 general election, deemed as one the UK’s most decisive and crucial.

(With inputs from agency)