Britain officially on verge of leaving EU as Johnson's Brexit bill becomes law

James Morris
Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK

Britain is officially on the verge of leaving the EU after Boris Johnson’s Withdrawal Agreement Bill gained royal assent to become law.

Some MPs cheered as deputy speaker Nigel Evans said in a short announcement to the Commons on Thursday that the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act had received royal assent.

Brexit secretary Steve Barclay said in a Twitter post: “The bill is now law and confirms our departure from the EU on January 31.”

Caroline Lucas, the Green MP who had been one of the leading campaigners for a second referendum, responded to the news by posting: “With royal assent for EU Withdrawal Agreement Act, we are throwing away the right to work, study, live and love in 27 countries.

“A moment of huge regret. But the start of the fight to hold on to European values, to redistribute power in UK & build a better, more equal society.”

Mr Johnson, who won last month’s general election under his infamous “get Brexit done” mantra, now faces just one more hurdle: ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement by the European Parliament, which is expected on Wednesday next week.

The UK will then officially leave the EU at 11pm on Friday next week, at which point it will enter into an 11-month transition period where the government will negotiate its future relationship with the bloc.

Boris Johnson became prime minister after an election campaign based around the slogan "get Brexit done" (AP)

It marks an end to a parliamentary era characterised by bitter Brexit deadlock.

The 2017 decision by his predecessor, Theresa May, to call a snap election backfired spectacularly as she lost her Conservative majority and was forced to rely on the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in a shaky confidence and supply arrangement to prop up her government.

But with the DUP and hardline Brexiteer Tories refusing to back her much-maligned Brexit deal, it was decisively rejected in the Commons three times earlier this year.

It ultimately led to her resignation, with Mr Johnson replacing her as Tory leader and PM in July.

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After three more months of bitter deadlock and division, which many argued was perpetuated by Mr Johnson’s rhetoric, an election was called and he gained a huge Conservative majority of 80.

As a result, his Withdrawal Agreement Bill – which was agreed with the EU in October last year – sailed through the 11 Commons and Lords processes needed for it to become law.

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