Brussels: The European Union (EU) leaders formally signed the post-Brexit trade deal with Britain on Wednesday.
EU chiefs Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel, the heads of the European Commission and European Council, smiled at a brief televised ceremony to put their names to the 1,246-page Trade and Cooperation Agreement.
Taking to Twitter, Leyen confirmed that she and European Council President Charles Michel “signed the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement” in Brussels.
“(UK) Prime Minister Boris Johnson will sign it later today in London,” she said.
“It has been a long road. It’s time now to put Brexit behind us. Our future is made in Europe,” von der Leyen added.
Britain will leave the European single market and customs union at 11 p.m. (2300 GMT) on Thursday, the end of a difficult year and of a post-Brexit transition period marked by intense and tortuous trade negotiations.
But first the hefty document, bound in blue leather, will be flown by the Royal Air Force to London for Prime Minister Boris Johnson to add his signature, and the UK parliament will embark on a rushed debate to clear the decks before the looming deadline.
After months of negotiations, on December 24 the EU and the UK announced the reaching of an agreement that will govern bilateral trade and security relationship starting from January 1, 2021.
The deal will need the approval of the European Parliament, the UK Parliament and the EU’s 27 member states.
The free trade deal is the biggest bilateral trade deal signed by either side, covering trade worth around 668 billion pounds ($905 billion).
The UK is the EU’s third largest trading partner in goods, after the US and China.