(Dec 31): The end of the year is a time for closure and new beginnings. As 2019 winds down, that is certainly the case with Brexit. Following the victory of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Tories in the general election this month, it is now clear that the United Kingdom will leave the European Union on January 31, 2020.

For many, including me, the occasion will be tinged with regret. But it also represents an opportunity to forge a new UK-EU partnership. And besides, things could have been much worse. Owing to the withdrawal agreement that was concluded this past October, a destructive “hard” Brexit has been averted.

Since the beginning of the Brexit negotiations, we on the EU side – the 27 member states and the European Parliament – have not strayed from the bloc’s core interests nor lost sight of the need for unity and solidarity. Our priority was first and foremost to secure the rights of European citizens, including by finding a solution for the people of Northern Ireland and Ireland, for whom the negotiations were about peace and stability, not just trade and the economy. Throughout the process, we have protected the EU single market and its guarantees for consumers, public and animal health standards, and safeguards against fraud and trafficking. But we also did our utmost to preserve a climate of trust between the EU and the UK, and to lay a solid foundation for a new partnership.

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