MPs have voted for Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, paving the way for the UK to leave the EU on January 31.
The Commons backed the withdrawal agreement bill (WAB) on Friday after Johnson secured an 80-seat majority at last week’s general election.
But deep down we all knew Brexit was a little bit more complicated than the reheating of an “oven ready” deal.
So, what happens now?
The WAB, which must still clear a vote in the House of Lords and its final reading in the Commons despite Friday’s result, writes into UK law the withdrawal terms and transition period Johnson agreed with Brussels earlier this year.
It is unlikely Britain can break from the bloc before January 31 as the European Parliament must also ratify the deal. MEPs are expected to back it next month.
Trade deal negotiations
The UK government will then begin negotiating the future relationship the UK will have with the EU.
This will sort out the terms goods and services will be traded on, and what tariffs imports and exports will face.
The two parties have until the end of December 2020 to conclude talks as that is when the transition period ends.
The UK faces a cliff-edge at this point and could exit the relationship to trade on World Trade Organisation terms with the EU.
During the transition, the UK can negotiate and sign trade deals with other countries but these cannot come into force until afterwards.
Could Brexit be softened?
Yes. Boris Johnson’s victory was secured by taking a huge swathe of traditional working class former Labour seats in the north and midlands.
The PM has said he will “work night and day” to earn their trust and that is thought to include ensuring Brexit does not damage their interests.
Although the UK will be leaving the customs union and single market, the trade deal could see the country maintain a reasonably close relationship with Europe. This could mean things like workers’ rights and environmental protections being safeguarded.
European Council president Charles Michel signalled this was possible in a tweet which said he would look to “negotiate a future trade deal which ensures a true level playing field”.
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