Queen Elizabeth II gave her formal assent Thursday for Britain to end its decades-long involvement in the European Union and seek a more independent but uncertain future at the end of the month.
The head of state’s ceremonial approval of the withdrawal legislation allows Britain to leave its closest neighbours and trading partners after years of bickering and three delays.
Two top EU officials in Brussels are expected to sign the separation treaty on Friday and Prime Minister Boris Johnson — the pro-Brexit figurehead of Britain’s seismic 2016 referendum — will put his name on it in the coming days.
“At times it felt like we would never cross the Brexit finish line, but we’ve done it,” Johnson said after both houses of the British parliament ratified the withdrawal bill on Wednesday.
“Now we can put the rancour and division of the past three years behind us and focus on delivering a bright, exciting future.”
The January 31 split caps a remarkable political comeback for Johnson at one of the most difficult points in Britain’s post-war history.
He quit former prime minister Theresa May’s government in 2018 in protest at what he viewed as her pro-European separation terms.
Johnson returned as May’s successor in July last year and has since managed to negotiate his own deal with Brussels and regain the government’s control of parliament in a risky early election last month.
The rest was a formality. Lawmakers barely debated the withdrawal agreement before passing it — even though critics called it worse for Britain than the one reached by May.
Johnson will celebrate his victory by issuing commemorative coins and chairing a special cabinet meeting in England’s pro-Brexit north on January 31.