Thu | Feb 27, 2020

Brexit bill becomes law

Published:Friday | January 24, 2020 | 12:28 AM


Britain’s delayed and disputed Brexit bill became law on Thursday, removing the last UK obstacle to the country leaving the European Union in just over a week.

Deputy Speaker Nigel Evans announced in the House of Commons that the Withdrawal Agreement Act had received royal assent from Queen Elizabeth II, the final formality in the measure’s legislative journey.

The brief announcement, which drew cheers of “hear, hear” from some Conservative lawmakers in the Commons, came hours after the bill completed its passage through Parliament by getting approval from the House of Lords.

“At times it felt like we would never cross the Brexit finish line, but we’ve done it,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said after that milestone late Wednesday.

The European Union’s parliament also must approve the Brexit divorce deal before January 31 if Britain is to leave on time. Lawmakers in Brussels are due to vote on it next week.

The UK is finally leaving the EU more than 3½ years after voters narrowly opted for Brexit in a June 2016 referendum — and after many rounds of political wrangling.

After years of negotiations between the British government and the EU, UK lawmakers repeatedly defeated attempts by both Johnson and predecessor Theresa May to finalise departure terms with the other 27 nations of the bloc.

That changed when Johnson’s Conservatives won the December 12 election, giving the government the ability to override the objections of opposition parties.

Opposition members of the House of Lords battled to amend the withdrawal bill but were overruled by Johnson’s 80-strong majority in the Commons.