Brexit Finish Line: Withdrawal Agreement Inked in London & Brussels

Written by | Monday, January 27th, 2020

The UK is expected to quit European Union on 31 January after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson signed the EU Withdrawal Agreement. In what is considered a formality, the European Parliament will vote on the agreement on 29 January. “The signing of the Withdrawal Agreement is a fantastic moment, which finally delivers the result of the 2016 referendum and brings to an end far too many years of argument and division,” said Johnson, referring to the Brexit referendum on the UK’s membership in the EU four years ago. Charles Michel, European Council President and Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission President, signed the document in Brussels earlier on Friday (24 January).
The original copy of the Withdrawal Agreement travelled to London by train and will now return to Brussels to be archived, with the UK keeping one copy. After Brexit takes place this coming Friday, the UK will attempt to negotiate deals on future relations with the bloc during a transition period, during which “things … inevitably change but our friendship will remain,” as Charles Michel noted in a tweet. “We start a new chapter as partners and allies.” PM Johnson has stressed he wants to ensure that the transitional period would not go beyond the end of 2020, but opposition figures and opponents claim this deadline can’t be achieved.
Earlier on Wednesday, the lower house of parliament, the House of Commons overturned changes to the legislation made by the upper house, the House of Lords, thus effectively stripping the Withdrawal Agreement Bill of five amendments. These proposed amendments included a clause to ensure protections for child refugees after Brexit and also registering the 3.6 million EU citizens living in the UK, which would have provided documents to ensure continuity of their residence in the country. The latest developments in the House of Commons have upset many opposition lawmakers, with some accusing the ruling Conservatives of going back on their promises made in 2018 by then-Prime Minister Theresa May.
Meanwhile, MEP and joint leader of the Greens Philippe Lamberts has appealed to Johnson’s administration to respect the post-Brexit legal rights of EU citizens in the UK. His comments followed UK security minister Brandon Lewis recent warning that EU citizens will be deported from the UK if they do not apply for settled status before the deadline of 30 June 2021. European Parliament’s resolution on the issue from last week calls for the protection of citizens’ rights after Brexit. “There are three million EU citizens in the UK who fear they may lose their rights after Brexit and we are extremely concerned about this. We in this parliament will do our utmost to ensure their rights are maintained, post Brexit.”

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