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Queen Elizabeth II approves Brexit bill, Britain to leave EU by January 31

Brexit deal: The EU withdrawal agreement has officially become a law after months of blockade in the UK Parliament. 

Jan 24, 2020 10:52 IST
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Brexit deal: Queen Elizabeth II gave her royal assent to the Brexit bill on January 23, 2020, paving the way for Britain's smooth exit from the European Union. Her Majesty approved the bill in accordance with the Royal Assent Act 1967.

The European Union (withdrawal agreement) bill 2020 has officially become a law after months of blockade in the UK Parliament.  The historic agreement sets the terms of UK's departure from the 28-member EU bloc. The European Parliament will now hold a vote on the withdrawal agreement next week. 

The United Kingdom is scheduled to leave the European Union on January 31, 2020. The nation will become the first-ever to leave the major bloc.

UK Parliament approves Brexit deal

The UK Parliament ratified the Brexit law on January 22, 2020, finally approving the terms of Britain's historic departure from the European Union on January 31. The House of Commons had already approved the EU withdrawal agreement earlier on January 9 by 330-231 votes. The move is historic, as the deal was stuck in the lower house for over a year.  

The House of Lords had suggested a few changes in the bill, including the rights of EU citizens and child refugees after Britain's exit from the EU. However, the House of Commons rejected all five amendments proposed by the upper house and sent the bill back to it. The House of Lords then reluctantly agreed to back the framed exit agreement. The approved Brexit deal was struck by Prime Minister Boris Johnson with the EU in 2019.  

How did UK Elections help Brexit deal?

The Brexit bill’s passage in the UK parliament was assured when British PM Boris Johnson’s Conservatives won a large majority in the UK Elections 2019.The bill was overwhelmingly rejected multiple times previously despite several efforts from Johnson and former British PM Theresa May.

The UK Election result was declared on December 12, 2019 and the Conservative Party won 364 seats in the 650-member House of Commons, while Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party won 203 seats. The victory was extremely significant for Boris Johnson, as Brexit was one of his key campaign promises.

Boris Johnson was chosen by his party as the new Prime Minister of the UK on July 23, 2019, replacing Theresa May who had resigned after repeatedly failing to see the Brexit bill through the Parliament. However, Johnson also failed to get the Brexit bill passed, following which he decided to call for the elections.

Brexit Referendum

The people of Britain had voted to leave the European Union in a historic referendum on June 24, 2016. The referendum to leave the EU saw 51.9 percent votes, while the referendum to stay in the European Union was backed by 48.1 percent votes. The turnout for the landmark referendum was much higher than the turnout in the 2015 general elections.

While Northern Ireland, London and Scotland had voted to remain in the European Union, Wales and the English shires had voted to leave the EU.

When will Britain leave the European Union?

Britain is scheduled to formally leave the European Union on January 31. However, the departure will only mark the beginning of the first stage of Britain’s exit from the EU. Britain and the EU will need to strike new deals in significant areas including trade and security by the end of 2020.

Though trade agreements generally take years to get completed, Johnson has stressed on finalizing it by the end of 2020, though the EU had offered to prolong the post-Brexit transit period to 2022. The European Union is Britain’s biggest trading partner and if no trade deal is agreed upon before the end of 2020, it could disrupt trade and push the UK into recession.

UK-EU new trade deal

After Brexit, the UK will continue to remain under EU trade rules until December 31. After this, the UK and EU will have to sign new trade deals on almost everything, ranging from trade in goods and services to fishing, aviation, medicines and security.

Though EU is of the opinion that this cannot be completed within 11 months, Johnson is confident about getting it done. British officials have suggested dividing the negotiations into different chunks.

The UK seeks a wide-ranging free trade deal with the EU but doesn’t want to adhere to all EU rules and standards. Britain seeks freedom to strike new trade deals around the world.

The EU, on the other hand, stated that the UK will not get completely free access to its markets unless it agrees to its standards, especially in areas including workers’ rights and the environment.

Why does Britain wish to leave the EU?

As a member state of the European Union, Britain was bound by strict rules of the European Commission to ensure that there is no unfair competition within the bloc’s vast single market. The countries outside the bloc aren’t bound by such strict rules.

Background

The UK was earlier scheduled to leave the European Union on March 29, 2019. However, the European Union agreed to delay the process till May 22, after British MPs- both Brexiteers and Remainers, repeatedly rejected the Brexit deal negotiated between the then British PM Theresa May and the European Union.

Theresa May’s repeated failures to get the Brexit deal approved, led her to finally resign as British PM and Boris Johnson was elected as the next Prime Minister with an overwhelming majority.

Boris Johnson, a key supporter of Brexit, had pledged to negotiate a new withdrawal deal before the October 31 Brexit deadline. However, his newly negotiated deal was also rejected by the UK Parliament, following which he called for elections in December 2019.

The UK Elections 2019 saw the Johnson-led Conservatives win a comfortable majority, paving the way forward for a smooth Brexit.

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