From Brussels, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel signed the post-Brexit trade agreement with the UK in a brief ceremony on December 30.
The texts will thereafter be sent to London by a Royal Air Force (RAF) aircraft to be signed by Prime Minister Johnson on the eve of the UK’s departure from the EU. As previously reported, the British Parliament’s House of Commons will also vote on the agreement on Dec. 30. EU and British negotiators agreed Dec. 24 on a series of details of cooperation, including trade, to clear the way for Britain to end the transition period from the EU in 2020 as originally planned. The agreement still needs to be ratified by both parliaments before it can come into force. Because of the short time left in the transition period, the EU adopted an alternative procedure, asking member states to first approve the provisional implementation of the agreement between January 1 and February 28, 2021, while asking the European Parliament to meet in early 2021 to consider the agreement.
Both sides said the signing of the post-Brexit trade agreement is an opportunity to open a new chapter in Europe’s relationship built during the post-World War II reconstruction, ending more than four years of Brexit negotiations and securing nearly $1 trillion in annual trade between the U.K. and Europe. Johnson told a specially convened meeting of the British Parliament’s House of Commons that he wants to “work together” with the EU when their interests are aligned and to use Britain’s regained sovereignty to reshape the British economy. “Brexit is not an end, it’s a beginning,” Johnson said. “The onus is now on all of us to make the most of the powers we’ve regained, the tools we’ve regained.”
The British Parliament’s lower house will vote on legislation to implement the deal at around 14:30 GMT on Wednesday, and the deal is expected to pass easily as both major parties will vote in favor. The bill will then be debated in the upper house of parliament and should become law around midnight. Earlier, against the backdrop of the EU flag, EU leaders signed the agreement reached on December 24 to preserve the UK’s duty-free and quota-free access to 450 million EU consumers.
In an EU statement, “Looking ahead is crucial in light of the opening of a new chapter in the relationship between the EU and the UK.” It called on both sides to take joint action on climate change and international affairs. Michel wrote earlier via Twitter, “Signing a trade and cooperation agreement with EC President von der Leyen on behalf of the EU. Prime Minister Johnson: a new chapter, a new relationship.” Von der Leyen said, “Today, European Council President Michel and I signed the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement. Prime Minister Johnson will sign it later today in London. It’s been a long road. It’s time to put Brexit behind us. Our future is being made in Europe.”