EU chief Ursula von der Leyen formally signs the Brexit divorce deal

Boris Johnson signed the Brexit divorce deal today, hailing the 'fantastic moment' that sends the UK officially on a path to quit the EU in a week's time.

He put Parker pen to paper on the official copy of the Withdrawal Agreement in Downing Street this afternoon, ending months and months of bitter and divisive politics.

The Prime Minister voiced his hope that it 'brings to an end far too many years of argument and division' ahead of Brexit on January 31.

His actions in a Downing Street anteroom came hours after it was claimed that Mr Johnson wants to strike a 'trailblazing' trade deal with Japan by the autumn and before deals are done with the EU and US.

He said: 'The signing of the Withdrawal Agreement is a fantastic moment, which finally delivers the result of the 2016 referendum and brings to an end far too many years of argument and division.

'We can now move forward as one country – with a Government focused upon delivering better public services, greater opportunity and unleashing the potential of every corner of our brilliant United Kingdom, while building a strong new relationship with the EU as friends and sovereign equals.'

He put pen to paper on the official copy of the Withdrawal Agreement in Downing Street this afternoon, ending months and months of biter and divisive politics

 

After being signed by the PM it will go back to Brussels tonight and be deposited in the EU archive alongside other treaties

After being signed by the PM it will go back to Brussels tonight and be deposited in the EU archive alongside other treaties

The president of the European Commission, Ursula Von Der Leyen, endorsed the Withdrawal Agreement treaty struck between Britain and the bloc at a ceremony in Brussels this morning.  

What happens next on Brexit?

January 31: The UK will leave the EU at 11pm and enter into a standstill transition period.

February: The EU will agree a negotiating mandate for trade talks with the UK. 

End of February: Trade talks between the two sides will start.

December 2020: The end of the transition period and the hard deadline for a trade deal to be completed.  

She was joined by the president of the European Council Charles Michel and chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier. 

It was then brought to the UK with an escort of officials from both sides, No 10 said. 

After being signed by the PM it will go back to Brussels tonight and be deposited in the EU archive alongside other treaties.

The UK has three 'certified copies', one of which will be stored in the Foreign Office’s archive of international treaties.

The EU had demanded ownership of the original treaty.

Tory MPs welcomed the move. Transport minister George Freeman said the signing of the treaty proved 'democracy is working' after 'three years of gridlock'. 

The result of the EU parliamentary vote is viewed as a formality with the UK now guaranteed to split from the EU at 11pm on the last day of this month. 

Ms von der Leyen's signing of the treaty came as it was claimed that Mr Johnson wants to strike a 'trailblazing' trade deal with Japan by the autumn and before deals are done with the EU and US. 

Ursula von der Leyen signed the Withdrawal Agreement treaty this morning in Brussels. She was joined by Charles Michel (right) and Michel Barnier

Ursula von der Leyen signed the Withdrawal Agreement treaty this morning in Brussels. She was joined by Charles Michel (right) and Michel Barnier

The signing of the treaty means the UK's departure from the EU on January 31 is now all but guaranteed

The signing of the treaty means the UK's departure from the EU on January 31 is now all but guaranteed

Downing Street reportedly believes that a quick deal is possible with Tokyo which would show the EU and the rest of the world that the UK is 'ready to go'. 

New 'Boris Bounce' sees private sector boom

The UK private sector returned to growth for the first time in five months in January as business confidence was boosted by Boris Johnson's election win, new data revealed today.

An uplift in business confidence after the Conservatives won a majority in the general election helped to drive growth across the economy, as new work increased at the fastest rate since September 2018.

The findings came in the preliminary IHS Markit/CIPS composite purchasing managers index (PMI), which records private sector performance.

It had a reading of 52.4, a significant rebound from a reading of 49.3 in December and ahead of analysts' forecasts of 50.7.

Any reading of above 50 reflects business growth and the preliminary figures showed significant upturns in the services and manufacturing sectors over the month.

Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit, said: 'The survey data indicate an encouraging start to 2020 for the UK economy.

Japan was initially cold on the chances of the two sides doing a deal after Brexit but there has apparently been a change of heart in Shinzo Abe's administration. 

The Sun reported that the Cabinet's EU Exit Strategy Committee met yesterday to discuss the UK's approach to post-Brexit trade talks. 

A Whitehall source told the newspaper: 'The PM is very keen on the Japan deal now, and thinks we can use it as a bit of a trailblazer. 

'It will show Brussels as well as the rest of the world we're ready to go.' 

It came as the EU continued to cast doubt on whether a comprehensive future partnership agreement will be able to be struck with the UK by the end of 2020. 

Mark Rutte, the Dutch PM, told Sky News in Davos that he believed the chances were '50/50'. 

Asked to rate the likelihood of a full deal being done by the end of the Brexit transition period, he replied: '50-50 because a year is not very long.

'And if the UK is really not willing to ask for an extension then we run the risk that we might get a cliff edge again.'

The UK will leave the EU on January 31 and will then enter into a standstill transition period during which the two sides will try to hammer out a complete trade deal. 

Mr Johnson is adamant that he will not agree to extend the transition period and that December 2020 must be viewed as a hard deadline. 

Mark Rutte, the Dutch PM pictured in Davos, Switzerland yesterday, said he believed the chances of a trade deal being agreed by December 2020 were '50/50'

Mark Rutte, the Dutch PM pictured in Davos, Switzerland yesterday, said he believed the chances of a trade deal being agreed by December 2020 were '50/50'

But the EU is deeply sceptical that a comprehensive agreement on the future partnership can be agreed so quickly and has pushed for the deadline to be pushed back.   

The Brexit deal finally became law yesterday as Mr Johnson's European Union Withdrawal Agreement Bill was given Royal Assent by the Queen, making it an Act of Parliament. 

The legislation was needed to ensure there is an orderly Brexit at the end of the month. 

Mr Johnson said the successful completion of the passage of the so-called WAB means the UK could now 'move forwards'.

'At times it felt like we would never cross the Brexit finish line, but we've done it,' he

read more from dailymail.....

Get the latest news delivered to your inbox

Follow us on social media networks

NEXT Former Belgian-Nicaraguan political prisoner calls for probe into Ortega government