Historic moment as EU chief Ursula von der Leyen formally signs the Brexit divorce deal as Boris Johnson ‘targets a “trailblazing” trade agreement with Japan by the autumn to show Brussels and the world Britain is “ready to go”‘
- President of the European Commission signed the Brexit deal in Brussels today
- Boris Johnson also expected to sign the Withdrawal Agreement Treaty today
- Comes after Parliament agreed to the terms of the Brexit deal and it became law
- European Parliament will vote on deal next Wednesday but result is a formality
Britain took a massive step towards leaving the European Union on January 31 today as Ursula von der Leyen formally signed the Brexit divorce deal.
The president of the European Commission endorsed the Withdrawal Agreement treaty struck between Britain and the bloc at a ceremony in Brussels this morning.
She was joined by the president of the European Council Charles Michel and chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.
She tweeted: ‘Charles Michel and I have just signed the Agreement on the Withdrawal of the UK from the EU, opening the way for its ratification by the European Parliament.’
Boris Johnson is expected to sign the UK’s copy of the document in Downing Street today ahead of a final vote in the European Parliament next Wednesday.
The result of that 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
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’.
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 likliehood 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′
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.’