Britain’s delayed and contested Brexit bill became law on Thursday, removing Britain’s last obstacle to the country’s exit from the European Union in just over a week.
The UK is finally leaving the 28-nation bloc more than three and a half years after voters narrowly chose to do so in a referendum in June 2016 – and after endless rounds of political wrangling.
Vice-President Nigel Evans announced Thursday in the House of Commons that the Withdrawal Agreement Act has received Royal Assent from Queen Elizabeth II, the latest formality in his legislative journey. An identical announcement was made by the Speaker of the Upper House of Parliament.
Evans’ brief announcement, which drew cheers of “Hear! Listen! “From some Tory lawmakers in the House of Commons, came hours after the bill ended its passage through Parliament on Wednesday night, gaining House of Lords approval.
“Sometimes I felt like we would never cross the Brexit finish line, but we did,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.
The European Parliament is also due to ratify the Brexit divorce deal by January 31, when Britain is expected to leave. The European Parliament’s Constitutional Affairs Committee voted by a large majority on Thursday to approve the Brexit withdrawal agreement, paving the way for a vote of all EU lawmakers in Brussels next Wednesday.
“This is a historic, albeit dark, moment for us. We deeply regret this result, ”Commission Chairman Antonio Tajani said after the 23-3 vote.
After years of divorce negotiations between the UK government and the EU, UK lawmakers have repeatedly defeated attempts by Johnson and his predecessor Theresa May to finalize Britain’s terms of departure with the other 27 nations of the block.
That changed when Johnson’s Tories won the UK election on December 12, giving his government the opportunity to override objections from opposition parties. Opposition members in the House of Lords fought to amend the withdrawal bill, but were rejected by Johnson’s 80-vote majority in the Commons.
But deep divisions over Brexit remain.
After the announcement of Royal Assent, Scottish National Party lawmaker Ian Blackford said the UK was in a “constitutional crisis” because the legislatures of Scotland, Wales and Ireland from North had not supported the Brexit bill.
“Boris Johnson trampled Democratic votes in Edinburgh, Belfast and Cardiff,” Blackford said.
The Scottish National Party has said Scotland should hold a referendum on independence from the UK, which Johnson refuses to allow.
Despite Johnson’s repeated promise to “get Brexit done” on January 31, departure day only marks the start of the country’s exit from the EU.
Guy Verhofstadt, the EU’s top Brexit lawmaker, said the bloc’s parliament will continue to monitor how Britain has implemented the divorce deal, in particular to ensure rights of EU citizens living in the UK are protected after Brexit.
In February, Britain and the EU will begin negotiations over their future relationship, rushing to forge new relationships for trade, security and a host of other areas by the end of 2020.
Johnson insists he will not agree to any delay in those talks beyond the end of the year. The UK is also keen to start talks on a free trade agreement with the US and intends to negotiate with the EU and the US simultaneously.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said a deal with Britain was “a top priority for President Trump and we plan to conclude it this year”.
US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said a trade deal between the two countries shouldn’t be too difficult because their economies are similar.
“Both are very strongly service oriented and within services, such as financial services, there is already a fairly high degree of integration and coordination, so it should be a lot easier mechanically,” he said. he declared in Davos.
But British opposition politicians are already raising concerns on issues ranging from food safety standards – particularly the US practice of washing chicken with chlorine to kill germs – to drug prices.
Ross has sought to ease concerns that a trade deal will push UK drug prices up as US drug companies seek concessions from Britain’s National Health Service.
“What we think is that drugs should be priced similar wherever they are, but I don’t think we are in a position to tell the UK what they should pay for drugs.” , did he declare.