“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 president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen informed via her Twitter micro blog.
“Things will inevitably change but our friendship will remain. We start a new chapter as partners and allies” wrote EU Council president Charles Michel.
“Looking forward to writing this new page together” he added in French.
After parliamentary ratification in the UK was concluded earlier, with Royal Assent granted for the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill, Constitutional Affairs Committee MEPs voted in favour of a positive recommendation regarding the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement, with 23 votes for, three against and no abstentions.
The vote took place after a statement by Committee Chair Antonio Tajani (EPP, IT) and a discussion between the Parliament’s Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt (Renew Europe, BE) and political group coordinators.
The debate in the Committee focussed on Parliament’s contribution to protecting citizens’ rights in the context of Brexit (with the majority of speakers during the first round commending the EU’s negotiating team), as well as the steps that should be taken by the UK and EU27 governments to continue protecting these rights during the transition period and beyond. The discussion also addressed the overall impact of Brexit and the future relationship between the EU and the UK, which is going to be the objective of the future negotiations.
Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal has become law after it received royal assent from the Queen Elizabeth II (image archive), having cleared all its stages in Westminster.
Tory MPs cheered the deputy speaker Nigel Evans while he confirmed in the House of Commons on January 23 that there was now a European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act.
Prime Minister Johnson finally succeeded in endorsing his bill through the Commons and the Lords after several failed attempts by his predecessor Theresa May.
Westminster approved the latest Brexit bill, but rejected five amendments. They included provisions to reunite child refugees with families already in the UK, and guaranteed residence for millions of EU citizens.
Members of Parliament gave their final backing to the Brexit bill after removing several amendments made by the House of Lords, including a provision to reunite unaccompanied refugee children whose families are already living in the UK.
The House of Commons effectively stripped the Withdrawal Agreement Bill — which dictates the terms of the UK’s exit from the EU — of five amendments.
Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said the reunification of refugee children in EU member states with family members already in the UK was “ultimately a matter which must be negotiated with the EU, and the government is committed to seeking the best possible outcome in those negotiations.”
Another amendment included 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. However, that amendment was removed from the bill.
The European Union leaders have agreed to extend the UK departure date until 31 January 2020, indirectly acknowledging that the British government will not meet the foreseen deadline on October 31.
The president of the EU Council Donald Tusk assessed the delay as “flextension“, underlining that there is no need to keep membership in the block until the date, but Britons could leave anytime before the date as soon as the Withdrawal Agreement was approved by Westminster.
The new Brexit delay has been announced amid MPs intend to vote on proposals by Prime Minister Boris Johnson for an early general election on December 12.
The Scottish National Party (SNP) and Liberal Democrat’s (Lib/Dem) have also proposed an election a few days earlier – on December 9.
The UK was due to leave the EU on October 31, but PM Johnson was required to request an extension after Westminster failed to agree a Withdrawal Agreement.
Boris Johnson had repeatedly stated the UK would leave on 31 October meeting the deadline regardless the Withdrawal Agreement, but the law – known as the Benn Act – imposes to accept the EU’s extension proposal in absence of the Brexit deal.
The Downing Street source said to the BBC that the government would introduce a bill “almost identical” to the Lib Dem/SNP option on October 29 if Labour voted their proposal down later, and “we will have a pre-Christmas election anyway”.
Germany is willing to accept the UK short-term extension for its departure from the European Union if it will be for the right political reason, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in an interview to N-TV channel.
“We need to know: What will be the reason for this?” Maas said. “If it will be about pushing back the date by two or three weeks to allow lawmakers in London to implement the ratification of the exit bill in a reasonable way, I think this will rather not be a problem” the Minister added.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was up to the EU to decide whether it wanted to delay Brexit and for how long, after a defeat in Westminster made ratification of his Withdrawal Agreement (WA) by the October 31 deadline almost impossible.
British MEP and leader of Brexit party Nigel Farage (pictured) said six month extension would be right time top organise general elections and move on with Brexit.
European Union top Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier (pictured) said that the UK has yet to provide “legal and operational” proposals that could lead out of Brexit deadlock.
“We are still ready to work on any new legal and operational proposal from the UK,” Barnier said. He aslo added Tweet to his micro blog, underlining that there is a need of legally operative solution in the Withdrawal Agreement to address the problems created by Brexit on island of Ireland. He aslo added that the EU27 are firmly united. Barnier underlined importance of avoiding hard border, protection of Good Friday Agreement, all-island economy & integrity of Single Market.
Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Tanaiste Simon Coveney, said “significant gaps” remain between the two sides.
However, he added that Barnier and his team are “available 24/7 to negotiate to try and get a deal done”.
Image: Berlaymont building, European Commission
European Parliament President David Sassoli today received a phone call from UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. It was the first conversation between the two leaders.
Prime Minister Johnson invited president Sassoli to meet in person in London and stressed the importance of the European Parliament in the Brexit process. He expressed his wish to find a positive agreement on the United Kingdom departure from the European Union. President Sassoli responded that this was also the wish of the bloc of EU27.
The call followed the approval of a new Brexit resolution which reaffirmed the European Parliament’s support for an orderly and managed Brexit. President Sassoli stressed in the call that Parliament’s priorities remain guaranteeing citizens’ rights and protecting the peace process in Northern Ireland. He also reiterated that any agreement will need to be approved by both the UK and European Parliament, so robust debate and parliamentary scrutiny is essential. The European institutions are ready to discuss any written proposal from the UK government to unblock the current impasse.