Britain’s Parliament voted resoundingly on Wednesday to approve a trade deal with the European Union, paving the way for an orderly break with the bloc that will finally complete the UK’s long and divisive Brexit journey, the AP reports. With just a day to spare, lawmakers in the House of Commons voted 521-73 in favor of the agreement sealed between the UK government and the EU last week. Brexit enthusiasts in Parliament praised it as a reclamation of independence from the bloc. Pro-Europeans lamented its failure to preserve seamless trade with Britain's biggest economic partner. But the vast majority in the divided Commons agreed that it was better than the alternative of a chaotic rupture with the EU. Late Wednesday evening, Parliament's upper chamber, the unelected House of Lords, also backed the deal.
It will become British law within hours, once it has received the formality of royal assent from Queen Elizabeth II. The UK left the EU almost a year ago, but remained within the bloc’s economic embrace during a transition period that ends at midnight Brussels time—11pm in London—on Thursday. The day before departure, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel signed the hard-won agreement during a brief ceremony in Brussels. The documents were then flown by Royal Air Force plane to London, where Prime Minister Boris Johnson added his signature in a photo opportunity in front of a row of Union Jack flags. The European Parliament also must sign off on the agreement, but is not expected to get to it for several weeks. (Click for more, including the big changes coming on New Year's Day.)