EU looks to new chapter in relations with Britain as Brexit deal is signed
BRUSSELS - With a call for both sides to look forward to a new chapter in their relationship, EU chiefs signed the Brexit trade deal agreed with Britain and sent the text off to London on Wednesday for Prime Minister Boris Johnson to add his signature.
Against a backdrop of EU flags, top EU officials signed the treaties struck on Dec. 24 to preserve Britain's tariff- and quota-free access to the bloc's 450 million consumers.
"It is of the utmost importance for the European Union and the United Kingdom to look forward, in view of opening a new chapter in their relations," the bloc said in a statement, calling for joint action on climate change and international affairs.
A British Royal Air Force plane was due to take the documents to Johnson before returning one copy to Brussels with a signed copy bearing the bloc's golden stars on the blue leather folder.
Britain formally left the EU nearly a year ago and the new partnership agreement will regulate ties from Jan. 1 on everything from trade to transport, energy links and fishing.
After both sides have signed, the deal will be in place until the end of February, pending final approval by the European Parliament that would make it permanent.
EU lawmakers are to debate the treaty - the result of months of negotiations that often came close to collapse - later on Wednesday. The British parliament will also debate, and is expected to pass, the deal.
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