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Boris Johnson hails 'fantastic moment' as he signs Brexit deal
25 January 2020, 13:54
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has formally signed the Brexit withdrawal agreement at Downing Street, hailing a "fantastic moment" for the country.
The Prime Minister 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.
European Union chiefs earlier signed off on the deal ahead of Britain's exit from the EU on January 31.
After the Queen gave royal assent to the PM's Brexit plan, and it formally became law, the UK is set to leave the EU with an agreement at the end of January.
It comes almost four years after the historic referendum when voters backed the campaign to leave the bloc.
Announced at 7 am on Friday morning, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and Council president Charles Michel signed-off the document that allows Britain to leave the EU next week.
However, the agreement will still need to be approved by the European Parliament with a vote expected two days before exit day.
As we reported on Thursday 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.
The agreement will see the UK enter a transition period, during which the relationship with Brussels will remain the same while trade talks are finalised before the tight December 31 deadline.
Mr Johnson was handed another boost, following news of the legislation's royal assent, after the US signalled it was willing to prioritise striking a trade deal with Britain.
The Daily Express reported that US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin - who attended the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday - said a deal by the end of 2020 would mean an "aggressive timeline", but insisted it was an "absolute priority" for Donald Trump's administration.
Speaking after Peers in the Lords rejected his exit bill five times, the PM urged the country to "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. "
The Lords had tried to secure additional rights including for unaccompanied child refugees but bowed to the will of MPs after the elected chamber overturned the Peers' demands.
MPs had reversed five changes made to the legislation by the Lords during a "ping-pong" phase where the Bill moved between the two Houses until an agreement was achieved.
Peers had defeated the Government on EU workers having the right to physical proof of their right to remain and on the power of courts to depart from European Court of Justice rulings.
They also worked to ensure the rights of unaccompanied child refugees to be reunited with their families in the UK post-Brexit.
"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 PM said.