These are the next steps in Britain’s EU exit
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These are the next steps in Britain’s EU exit

After clearing House of Commons, Brexit bill must now pass House of Lords and European Parliament for UK to leave bloc on January 31; trade talks will then begin

Pro-Brexit demonstrators hold banners outside Parliament in London, December 20, 2019. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Pro-Brexit demonstrators hold banners outside Parliament in London, December 20, 2019. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

LONDON — British MPs finally approved the terms of Brexit on Thursday, paving the way for Britain to leave the European Union on January 31 and for trade talks with Brussels to begin.

Here are the next key steps:

Next week: House of Lords

MPs in the lower parliamentary House of Commons have completed their scrutiny of the divorce deal that Prime Minister Boris Johnson struck with Brussels in October.

It now goes to the unelected upper House of Lords where, unlike the Commons, Johnson has no majority.

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson emerges to greet European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen outside 10 Downing Street in London on January 8, 2020, ahead of their meeting. (Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP)

However, the scale of his victory in last month’s general election and the approval of MPs mean peers are unlikely to make any major changes.

The Lords will begin debating the Brexit deal next Monday, with the bill likely to pass into law by January 22 or 23.

January 29: European Parliament

The Brexit deal must also be ratified by the European Parliament.

MEPs have been waiting to see what London does after years of political wrangling but are now expected to approve the deal on January 29.

January 31: Brexit

With the divorce terms confirmed, Britain will leave the European Union on the next deadline set with Brussels, on January 31.

This comes 43 months after Britons voted in the June 2016 referendum to end their nearly half a century of integration with the European Union.

Lawmakers read out the result of the vote on The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill in the House of Commons in London, December 20, 2019 (House of Commons via AP)

February/March: trade talks begin

Britain says it is ready to start trade talks on February 1 but the EU must work out its position.

Negotiators in Brussels began discussing this week what member states want from the negotiations — and what are their red lines.

According to two officials, the EU mandate could be approved by national ministers on February 25, unless pressure rises to advance the schedule.

Officials on both sides have suggested trade talks could begin around March 1.

July 1: extension deadline

The EU-UK Brexit deal includes a transition phase in which relations remain the same in practice until December 31, 2020, while they agree a new trade and security partnership.

Britain can ask to extend the period for one or two years, but must inform the EU of its request by July 1. After that, there will be no further opportunities to extend.

Johnson insists there will be no extension.

December 31: Transition ends

Without an extension, existing relations between Britain and the EU will be severed on December 31, 2020.

Without a new deal, cross-Channel trade, transportation and a multitude of other ties risk being severely disrupted.

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