The President of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen and the President of the European Council, Charles Michel have signed the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, seven days before exit day.
Ursula Von der Leyen announced in a tweet: “Charles Michel and I have just signed the Agreement on the Withdrawal of the UK from the EU, opening the way for its ratification by the European Parliament”.
The deal became UK law after it received royal assent from the Queen on Thursday. The European Parliament is expected to vote on the agreement next Wednesday. The vote is expected to be a formality, rather than a close decision.
The 600-page document states the UK will leave the EU at midnight central European time on 31 January. The UK will abide to a transition period until the end of the year where it will remain in the EU’s single market and customs union.
It also contains arrangements on maintaining an open border on the island of Ireland, as well as on citizens’ rights and the UK’s £33bn worth of financial obligations to the EU.
An option of extending the transition period is available in the agreement, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson will not be taking this as he believes the 11-month period is enough time to reach a deal.
Von der Leyen and other EU figures believe the transition period is too short and are sceptical the UK will be able to negotiate a comprehensive deal before the end of the year.
The UK aims to agree on a deal for future ties by 2021.
Charles Michel, the president of the European Council said in a tweet: “Things will inevitably change but our friendship will remain. We start a new chapter as partners and allies”.