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UK set to leave EU on Jan 31 after Queen approves bill

LONDON (AA): The EU Withdrawal Bill that will enable Britain’s exit from the bloc on Jan. 31 became law on Thursday after receiving Royal assent from Queen Elizabeth II.

The bill was passed by the House of Lords on Wednesday after it was sent back to the upper house of parliament after various amendments were removed.

The legislation that will implement the withdrawal agreement negotiated by Prime Minister Boris Johnson with the EU was pending Royal assent — a formality of the monarch’s approval — to become law.

According to the law, the U.K. will leave the EU on Jan. 31, when a transition period that will expire on Dec. 31, 2020, will kick in.

The EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill passed the first stage of the legislative process in October, but Johnson paused procedures when he failed to receive approval on a timetable to make it law, before the previous Brexit deadline of Oct. 31.

Missing the Oct. 31 deadline and being forced to ask for an extension from the EU, Johnson had called an early general election after the EU granted an extension until Jan. 31, 2020.

Securing a majority in the House of Commons in the December poll, Johnson cleared the way for the bill to become law before the end of January.

The revised deal negotiated between Johnson and the EU officials includes a lighter version of the backstop in Northern Ireland and the right to decide on alignment with the EU for the region’s yet-to-be-formed devolved government.

The backstop clause was the thorniest issue in a previous deal reached by former Prime Minister Theresa May, which she repeatedly failed to have passed in the House of Commons.

According to Johnson’s deal, Northern Ireland will remain aligned with EU rules for four years, after which the local executive will review the term with the option to extend it.

The U.K. decided to leave the bloc after more than 40 years of membership in a referendum held in June 2016.

With the new legislation, the U.K. will leave the EU at 11 p.m. (2300GMT) on Friday, Jan. 31, 3.5 years after the referendum.

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