Brexit deal becomes UK law, paving way for EU departure next week

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Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal has officially become UK law, paving the way for the country to leave the EU next week.

The prime minister’s Withdrawal Agreement Act was signed off by the Queen on Thursday after completing its journey through parliament.

Commons deputy speaker Nigel Evans announced the news to MPs on Thursday afternoon.

Tory backbenchers welcomed the announcement, with tweets such as “it is done” and “promise made, promise delivered”.

But pro-EU politicians were less pleased, Labour MP Rachael Maskell saying the deal should have been “put to the people for a final say” and the Greens’ Caroline Lucas calling it a “a moment of huge regret”.

It marks the UK clearing one of the final key hurdles on its path to leaving the EU on 31 January.

Brussels still needs to take a few more steps for it to formalise the agreement in international law.

Mr Johnson tried in October to push his Brexit deal bill through the Commons in a matter of days, after managing to strip out its most controversial part known as “the backstop”.

But MPs complained they were not getting enough time to scrutinise the updated agreement, forcing the prime minister to ask Brussels for a third Brexit delay to avoid no-deal.

The deadline was pushed back to 31 January and with the threat of food, fuel and drug shortages abated, Labour agreed to the Tories’ call for a snap election to break the deadlock.

When polling day came on 12 December, Mr Johnson won the Conservatives’ best result since 1987 and returned to the Commons with an 80-strong majority.

He promised to “end the deadlock” in British politics by delivering Brexit.

After the Christmas break, MPs re-assembled in Westminster and the Brexit deal bill comfortably passed all its major legislative hurdles.

They voted down various attempts by the House of Lords to amend the legislation, including one calling for the restoration of unaccompanied child refugees to be reunited with their families in the UK post-Brexit.

While the UK will have formally left the EU on 1 February, an 11-month transition period will then kick in meaning it stays inside the single market and customs union.

Negotiations will be hammered out to try and secure a new deal on the future relationship including a trade deal by the end of 2020.