British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has signed agreement for the nation to leave the European Union next week Friday.
Johnson, on Friday hailed “a new chapter” in Britain’s history as he signed its divorce deal with the EU, clearing another hurdle ahead of the country’s departure from the bloc next Friday.
Johnson signed the agreement in Downing Street in front of European and British Foreign Office officials who had brought it from Brussels.
EU chiefs Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel had put their names to the treaty at a ceremony held behind closed doors in the dead of night.
“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,” Johnson said in a statement.
“This signature heralds a new chapter in our nation’s history,” he added on Twitter.
AFP reports that the treaty would now return to Brussels, where the original would be kept in EU archives along with other international treaties, while three copies would be dispatched back to London.
On Wednesday next week, the text will go to the European Parliament for ratification and on Thursday diplomats from the EU member states will approve the deal in writing.
Then, on Friday, January 31, Britain spends its last day in the EU before leaving the bloc at 2300 GMT as clocks strike midnight in Brussels.
“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,” European Commission president Von der Leyen tweeted.
In a separate tweet, European Council president Michel said: “Things will inevitably change but our friendship will remain. We start a new chapter as partners and allies.”
The former Belgian premier, whose council represents EU member governments, added, in French: “I’m keen to write this new page together.”
In another move to prepare Brussels for relations with Britain as an outside power, the European Commission named an ambassador — veteran diplomat Joao Vale de Almeida — to London.
Johnson signed with a Parker fountain pen, as is traditional for ceremonial signings in Downing Street, with staff including the prime minister’s chief Brexit negotiator David Frost present.
Earlier in Brussels, the signing was conducted before dawn in the European Council’s headquarters, as chief EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier looked on.
No reporters or photographers were allowed to witness the low key ceremony, despite news agencies offering to organise a pool.
British voters backed leaving the European Union in a June 2016 referendum, and after lengthy negotiations and several delays Johnson’s new government plans to “get Brexit done” next week.
Queen Elizabeth II gave her formal assent to the British withdrawal legislation on Thursday and the EU is now expected to complete the final formalities in the coming days.