Britain set to seal Brexit deal


Foreign Desk Report LONDON: British lawmakers are expected later on Thursday to approve legislation which will allow the country to leave the European Union on Jan. 31 with an exit deal, ending more than three years of wrangling over the terms of the unprecedented divorce. At around 1700 GMT, Prime Minister Boris Johnson will turn the page on one of Britain’s deepest political crises in decades when parliament’s lower house votes to approve legislation that will implement an exit deal agreed with the EU last year. “Securing the passage of the legislation in the Commons will be a significant positive step,” Johnson’s spokesman said. The legislation will then head to parliament’s upper chamber and is expected to become law in the coming weeks, leaving enough time to allow Britain to leave on Jan. 31 with a deal to minimize economic disruption. In recent years, financial markets have been captivated by the twists and turns of Britain’s Brexit drama, characterized by acrimonious negotiations in Brussels, knife-edge votes in parliament and heavy defeats for unstable governments. But after Johnson called a snap election late last year and then won a large majority by promising to deliver Brexit at the end of January, the uncertainty over when and how Britain will leave the EU has largely abated. The focus has instead turned to upcoming talks on long-term arrangements with the EU that will kick in when a transition period – during which Britain remains subject to EU rules – ends on Dec. 31. Johnson is adamant that the free-trade deal he wants can be negotiated in time, but counterparts in the EU are less convinced. On Wednesday, Johnson met European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in London hours after she had made a speech stating it would be “basically impossible” to agree everything by the end of the year. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is “one of Europe’s bravest politicians” and the European Union should aim for strong strategic relations with Britain after it leaves the bloc, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Thursday. He spoke after chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier said a comprehensive agreement on the future relationship between the bloc and Britain would take longer than the 11-month transition period that begins after Britain’s Jan. 31 exit. Orban, an anti-immigrant nationalist, has often clashed with EU authorities in Brussels over compliance with democracy standards but has never suggested Hungary should also depart the bloc, from which it receives major annual development funding. “I believe a generous and strategic cooperation is needed with the British in the coming period when they are no longer members of the EU,” Orban told a news conference.