The United Kingdom has passed the legislation to make the current Brexit deal with the European Union official UK law, paving the way for the country’s exit from the EU in eight days time January 31st.
The House of Commons — the lower, elected chamber once the source of endless Brexit drama — quietly and quickly approved the bill on January 9. The House of Lords, the unelected upper chamber, approved the legislation this week with amendments. But the House of Commons overturned the changes on Wednesday, and the House of Lords relented and agreed to accept the legislation without tweaks.
With Parliament agreed, the legislation received royal assent on Thursday, allowing the Queen to give formal approval to a British exit (after approving one of a different sort this month).
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s election victory in December, which delivered him an 80-seat majority in the House of Commons, turned the historic Brexit moment into something more humdrum, as the opposition lawmakers could make little resistance to the government’s plans. Even in the House of Lords, where Johnson doesn’t have a lot of support, peers were restrained from staging too much of a challenge, as it would be seen as stymieing the will of the electorate.
But the moment is still monumental, as the UK prepares to end its EU membership and chart a new version of its relationship with the bloc. The European Parliament has to approve the Brexit deal on January 29, but this is largely a formality which means the UK and the EU will end their 40-year marriage by the end of this month.
What to expect after January 31
The EU-UK relationship won’t seem that different, at least at first. The UK and the EU are about to enter an 11-month transition period, during which the UK will continue to follow most EU rules but will not have any decision-making power in the body.
During this period, the UK and the EU will figure out what the future will look like: how they’ll trade with each other, how they’ll regulate financial services, how they’ll work together on security — and quite a bit more.
Negotiations will begin in earnest in late February or early March, and the window to complete them — again, less than 11 months — is narrow and ambitious. Many EU officials have been pretty blunt and said that they do not believe this is enough time to settle all the details of this future EU-UK cooperation. After all, it took about three years just to get to this point.
This next phase is likely to be even tougher. Follow us at the EWN for full coverage on the Uk’s Brexit journey, it affects us and it affects you, it’s bound to be riveting!