Brexit has been officially signed off by the President of the European Commission as she finally put pen to UK’s exit deal.
After 1,309 days of wrangling, protests, bluster and spin, Ursula Von Der Leyen today signed off the Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the EU.
It was also signed by European Council President Charles Michel.
It means the UK will all but definitely leave the EU at 11pm on next Friday, with a transition period where nothing really changes for 11 months.
Brexit took so long that the Presidents who originally arranged the deal – Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk – have finished their terms and been replaced.
The deal became UK law yesterday when the Queen granted her assent and there is now just one step left – for the European Parliament to back it on January 29.
But it will only be the start of trade talks which have to reach a deal by December 31 – otherwise the UK will crash out of the EU without a trade deal.
EU chiefs have warned the 11-month timetable is not workable, especially as they can only really start proper trade talks in March.
Ms von der Leyen tweeted: “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.”
Mr Michel added: “Things will inevitably change but our friendship will remain.
“We start a new chapter as partners and allies.”
But his deal watered down pledges to child refugees and workers’ rights, scrubbed out some Parliamentary scrutiny of a trade deal and blocked off an option to extend the transition period if there’s no deal by December.
This week a top EU official warned no deal remained a “distinct possibility” on 1 January 2021 if the two sides fail to strike a trade deal before then.
Stefaan de Rynck, senior aide to Michel Barnier, Brussels’ chief negotiator, said: “It is [an outcome] that we will try to avoid, just like we tried to avoid it in the past, but not at any price.
“So it could well be there is a no deal in January 2021 in case we don’t reach a common ground.”
Meanwhile the US – where Donald Trump wants a PR boost ahead of November’s election – signalled it was willing to prioritise striking a trade deal with Britain.
The Daily Express reported that US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin – who attended the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday – said a deal by the end of 2020 would mean an “aggressive timeline”, but insisted it was an “absolute priority” for Donald Trump’s administration.