Queen gives the EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill Royal Assent: Brexit News for Friday 24 January

Queen gives the EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill Royal Assent: Brexit News for Friday 24 January

Queen gives the EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill Royal Assent…

The Queen has today given the Brexit Bill Royal Assent, finally passing the UK’s withdrawal into law. Deputy Speaker Nigel Evans announced the news this afternoon in the House of Commons. Almost four years after Brits voted for Brexit, the Withdrawal Agreement Bill has formally become a law today after the Queen gave it Royal Assent. Boris Johnson was jubilant yesterday after the bill passed parliament, and the PM is set to hail freedom from the EU when the UK leaves on January 31. The Withdrawal Agreement still needs formal ratification from the European Parliament, in a vote to set for next Wednesday. The House of Commons overturned all of the amendments the House of Lords tried to attach to the bill earlier this week – another victory for the PM. – The Sun

  • Boris Johnson’s Brexit bill becomes law – Guardian 

…as Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal clears its first hurdle in the European Parliament…

Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal has cleared its first hurdle in the European parliament after it was approved by a key committee of MEPs. The withdrawal agreement was overwhelmingly backed on the parliament’s Constitutional Affairs committee by 23 votes in favour to three against. It means the treaty will head to a vote for all MEPs next Wednesday, just two days before the UK is set to leave the EU. MEPs will meet in Brussels for an extraordinary plenary session where they are expected to also give their blessing to the plan. “It is a historical moment albeit a sombre moment for us,” said committee chair Antonio Tajani. – Independent

…and the European Parliament Trade Committee Chair says a UK-EU FTA can be completed this year

German MEP Bernd Lange is Chair of the European Parliament’s Trade Committee. If his sentiment this morning is reflected in the Commission, the UK-EU FTA negotiations could be a lot more cordial than the Brexit ones of the last few years ever were. Speaking on the Today Programme this morning, Lange said that “it is possible to have a trade deal done in this year”, striking a very different tone from a more salty Ursula von der Leyen last month. Lange accepted that it’s “clearly not possible” for the UK to be subject to ECJ arbitration in the future relationship, saying there will be a “state to state dispute mechanism”, and rounded off by saying UK-EU relations will perhaps be even better after Brexit. – Guido Fawkes

Boris Johnson wants to strike Britain’s first post-Brexit trade deal with Japan

Boris Johnson wants to strike Britain’s first post-Brexit trade deal with Japan, and before the end of the year, in a bid to whip up a bandwagon. Cabinet ministers have agreed to pursue an agreement with Tokyo at lightning speed, The Sun can reveal, with hopes rising among nation’s leaders that it could be wrapped up in the Autumn. Having initially been cold about Brexit, Whitehall sources say the Japanese government have undergone a significant change of heart. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s aides have told No10 he wants a deal as soon as possible, with insider saying it will break new ground on the digital and financial services sectors. – The Sun

  • UK officials are pushing for a Trump trade deal to be Britain’s top priority after Brexit – Business Insider

Chancellor Sajid Javid pledges to protect UK companies after Brexit

Sajid Javid has reassured businesses that the UK won’t diverge from European rules “just for the sake of it” after Brexit. The chancellor vowed to “always” protect companies’ interests during a lunch for British executives at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos. Mr Javid’s remarks were in sharp contrast to his warnings a week ago that there would “not be alignment” with EU rules after Britain leaves the bloc. Firms will need to “adjust”, he told the Financial Times. The interview prompted senior figures across a range of industries including automotive and aerospace to express concern. – The Times (£)

No. 10 rebukes business leaders who seek unlimited EU workers

Downing Street has rebuked business leaders and trade groups after they called for low-skilled EU migrants to be allowed to continue to come to the UK on two-year visas after Brexit. Britain’s five largest business organisations and 30 trade associations have called for a two-year “temporary visa route” that would allow low-skilled migrants to continue to enter the country after December 31. The proposal for the short-term visa was previously announced by Theresa May, who as prime minister said it would be a “transitional” measure to address the “challenges” faced by businesses after Brexit. – The Times (£)

Andrea Leadsom plays down dispute with the US in row over tech tax

Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom has said Britain and the United States remain committed to reaching a free trade deal, despite a dispute over UK plans to tax US tech giants. US treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin warned on Wednesday that the US could retaliate with tariffs on the UK car industry if the Government goes ahead with planned digital tax. Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, he said President Donald Trump would be raising the issue personally with Boris Johnson. The row raised fears that the Prime Minister’s hopes of reaching a swift, post-Brexit free trade agreement with the US were unlikely to be fulfilled. Appearing on Sky News, Mrs Leadsom confirmed the Government would be pressing ahead with the 2% digital tax in April. – Belfast Telegraph

Iain Duncan Smith: Striking a trade deal with the US must be Britain’s first priority

The result of the last general election wasn’t just a substantial victory for the Conservatives but a marker for a new era in British politics. It was as significant as Margaret Thatcher’s victory in 1979, where she gained a majority of 43, drawing hundreds of thousands of votes away from Labour’s traditional support base. The same happened again in 2019, as life-long Labour supporters voted Conservative for the first time. For my party, “Getting Brexit Done” will mean very little if we cannot keep our promises to these voters, who have felt left behind for too long. Brexit exposed the reality that the UK has become a tale of two countries – of London and the South East vs the rest. In this divided nation, a metropolitan elite, inhabiting the ‘beltway’ in London over successive governments, has disproportionately benefitted from comfortable arrangements that suited them often to the detriment of the rest of the UK. – Iain Duncan Smith MP for the Telegraph (£)

Andrea Hossó: For all Europeans and freedom loving patriots, Big Ben should still bong for Brexit

Should any of us have entertained the vain hope that the election result put an end to the three and a half years of miserable wrangling over whether the UK is a democracy, the “bong for Brexit” circus has surely cured us all of this futile dream. Britain is known in the world as the country of fair play and the virtue of losing with grace. This noble tradition seems not to apply to the losing side of the political establishment. Before we had Project Fear, now we hear about the impossibility of concluding a trade deal within a year and the irrelevance of lonely Britain in the world.  We hear that we should not have Big Ben marking the moment of Brexit because it is too costly and, anyway, we should avoid seeming “triumphalist”. – Andrea Hossó for the Telegraph (£)

Nicola McEwen: Brexit is showing the strains in the UK’s family of nations

The first month of the new government’s term in office has been dominated by the EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill. The Prime Minister was in a rush to ensure the exit deal negotiated with Brussels was written into UK law by the time the UK leaves the EU on 31st January. He achieved that goal on Wednesday night, but it was without the consent of any of the devolved institutions. This is the first time that the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales and the Northern Ireland Assembly have together refused consent for a UK bill. Most striking is the extent to which, just days after Stormont reopened for business, the normally divided parties and communities united to express their opposition. Each legislature shared concerns that the Bill gives UK ministers powers to make decisions in devolved areas without their agreement. They also share frustration that the devolved institutions are being side-lined in the Brexit process, and fear that legislative preparations for Brexit are eroding devolved powers. – Nicola McEwen for the Telegraph (£)

Brexit in Brief

  • Boris’s masterstroke? The demise of the Tory Ultra-Remainers – Anna Bailey for Briefings for Brexit
  • John Bercow, the controversial speaker accused of bullying, will forever be a symbol of Brexit division – John Rentoul for the Independent
  • UK to grow faster than Eurozone – John Redwood’s Diary
  • Barnier was a total failure in his role as chief Brexit negotiator, and we can expect the same on trade – Matthew Lynn for the Telegraph (£)
  • Bolton Town Hall will be lit up to celebrate Brexit on January 31st – Bolton News

And finally… A Tory MP wants a fireworks display visible from France and a ‘We love the UK’ banner on the White Cliffs of Dover for Brexit day

A Conservative MP has called for Brexit to be marked next week with a firework display that can be seen from France and a huge banner hanging from the White Cliffs of Dover. Natalie Elphicke, the MP for Dover, has urged the UK to celebrate its exit from the European Union by hanging a banner displaying the words “We love the UK” on 31 January. The newly elected Conservative has suggested the banner should replace a rival 150 sq m “We still love EU” banner which is being crowdfunded by Liberal Democrat MEP Antony Hook. – Independent