Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal cleared its final hurdles in Parliament, bringing the crisis that has paralyzed British politics since the country voted to leave the European Union almost four years ago to a close.
The passage of the law vindicates Johnson’s gamble to call an election last month in which he asked voters to back his blueprint for leaving the bloc on Jan. 31. His 80-seat majority in the elected House of Commons meant he could sweep aside objections from pro-EU politicians in the upper chamber of Parliament, the Lords, and break the deadlock that cost his predecessor, Theresa May, her job last year.
“It will stand as a historic piece of legislation,” Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay told members of Parliament as he urged them to reject the Lords’ changes to the bill.
Later on Wednesday, members of the unelected House of Lords formally dropped their opposition and accepted the legislation as approved by the Commons. The bill will now go to Queen Elizabeth II who will sign it into law, putting Britain on track to leave the EU in nine days’ time.
The agreement with the EU will now need to be formally ratified by the European Parliament on Jan. 29, before the U.K. leaves the bloc at the end of the month. Britain will then enter a transition period, scheduled to last until the end of the year, during which it will continue to be bound by EU laws until it negotiates a new trade deal with the remaining 27 member states.
“We’re in a very happy position in that we leave the EU in a position of absolute grace and uniformity,” Johnson said as he answered questions from the public about the future negotiations with Brussels on Facebook. “We are in perfect alignment with our EU friends and partners.”
Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid acknowledged Johnson’s Dec. 31 deadline for reaching a new trade deal with the EU was “tight.”
“Both sides recognize that it’s a tight timetable, a lot needs to be put together in the time that we have, but it can be done,” Javid said during a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “And it can be done for both goods, where we want to see free trade, zero tariffs, zero quotas — but also on services.”
The House of Lords had sought to amend the Brexit legislation to enhance EU citizens’ rights in Britain, allow judges — rather than ministers — to decide on the use of rulings by European Courts, and to ensure unaccompanied refugee children can join family in the U.K. All the measures were rejected by the Commons. Johnson’s government rejected these changes and pushed the Lords to back down.