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 U.K.’s long and divisive Brexit journey.
With just a day to spare, lawmakers in the House of Commons voted 521-73 in favor of the agreement sealed between the U.K. 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 U.K. 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 —- 11 p.m. 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 agreement that we signed today is the result of months of intense negotiations in which the European Union has displayed an unprecedented level of unity,” Michel said. “It is a fair and balanced agreement that fully protects the fundamental interests of the European Union and creates stability and predictability for citizens and companies.”