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EU-UK Brexit trade deal signed into law

December 31, 2020

The British Parliament voted overwhelmingly for an EU-UK trade deal to avert the feared prospect of a cliff-edge no-deal Brexit in less than two days' time.

The sun sets behind the Victoria Tower at the Palace of Westminster
The legislation was approved by House of Commons lawmakers and must now pass to the unelected upper House of LordsImage: Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images

Lawmakers in Britain's lower chamber, the House of Commons, voted in favor of a post-Brexit trade deal as the EU-UK transition period comes to an end on January 1.

Members voted 521-73 in favor of the legislation, with lawmakers from the opposition Labour Party saying they had no other option than to vote with the government ahead of the December 31 deadline. The agreement, sealed by the European Union and UK last week, avoids the prospect of a chaotic no-deal split.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said ahead of the vote that the deal would allow Britain to become a "friendly neighbor, best friend and ally" to the 27-member bloc.

London and Brussels would work "hand in glove whenever our values and interests coincide, while fulfilling the sovereign wish of the British people to live under their own sovereign laws made by their own sovereign parliament," Johnson added.

The legislation, called the EU (Future Relationship) Bill, later passed the House of Lords on Wednesday evening in an unusually rapid one-day procedure. The bill then received final approval from Queen Elizabeth, enabling it to officially become law in Britain.

EU approval of the deal

Ambassadors from all EU member states on Tuesday gave a green light to the provisional application of the trade agreement from January 1 by making the pact official. That allowed European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel to sign off on the deal early on Wednesday morning.

The arrangements are provisional in nature because the European Parliament must still give its approval to the deal early next year.

Britain entered the EU's predecessor, the European Economic Community (EEC), on January 1, 1973, and formally left the EU on January 31. Since then, it has been in a transition period under which the rules that apply to trade, travel and business have remained unchanged.

rc/rt (dpa, Reuters, AP, AFP)