Britain's House of Commons voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to approve a trade deal with the European Union, the last major step in London's yearslong split from the continent's 27-member governing body.
The United Kingdom exits the European Union at the stroke of midnight in Brussels, or 2300 London time (GMT), when Britain leaves de-facto membership that continued after it formally left the bloc on January 31. "It is a fair and balanced agreement that fully protects the fundamental interests of the European Union and creates stability and predictability for citizens and companies".
The vote on the legislation to enact the trade agreement was passed by 521 to 73 votes in parliament's lower house.
Britain will leave the European single market and customs union at 11:00 p.m. GMT on Thursday, the end of a hard year and of a post-Brexit transition period marked by intense trade negotiations.
The end of the transition period however marks a major upheaval: border customs controls will increase trade and free movement will stop for the British and European Union citizens in their respective territories.
European markets will be closed on Friday for New Year's Day.
Brexit supporters, including Johnson, say any short-term pain will be worth it.
The EU is Britain's largest trading partner.
Among the opponents of the text are the small Unionist North Irish party DUP - favorable to Brexit, but opposed to customs controls between the British province and the rest of the United Kingdom - as well as the Europhiles of the Liberal Democrat party and the Scottish independence formation SNP. "It's a basis to build on in the years to come".
UK chief trade negotiator David Frost looks on as Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson signs the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement at 10 Downing Street, London, Dec. 30, 2020. "Our future is made in Europe", Von der Leyen said.
She noted that the deal protected trade in goods but did not cover services, which account for 80 per cent of Britain's economy.
Meanwhile, sterling was up 0.3% against the dollar at 1.3660, hitting its best level since May 2018, having rallied sharply on Wednesday after British lawmakers approved the Brexit trade deal.