Brexit: What happens next?

Rebecca Speare-Cole
Britain will seek to conduct parallel trade talks with the US and European Union after it leaves the bloc: AFP via Getty Images

The UK leaves the European Union on January 31, but that will not mean the end of the Brexit saga.

Boris Johnson unveiled plans to celebrate the fruition of his "get Brexit done" pledge as Britain departs the EU.

He signed the withdrawal agreement on Friday after the Queen gave royal assent and the presidents of the European Council, Charles Michel, and the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, formally signed it in Brussels.

The prime minister has spoke of his desire to "look ahead with confidence" next Friday, when Britain formally departs the bloc.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson signed the agreement ahead of the UK's exit from the European Union on January 31 (Twitter/@borisjohnson)

Here's everything you need to know about what happens next?

What happens on January 31?

At 11pm in the UK - midnight in Brussels - Brexit finally happens. The UK leaves the European Union and, under the terms of the deal negotiated with Brussels, enters a transition period.

The terms of the deal are aimed at ensuring there is no sudden cliff-edge change for businesses and citizens, and life will continue largely unchanged.

What happens after Brexit?

President of the European Council, Charles Michel (right) and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen signing the Agreement on the Withdrawal of the UK from the EU, watched by EU Chief Brexit Negotiator Michel Barnier, in Brussels, Belgium (PA)

January 31 is not the end of the Brexit process. It may only mark the end of the beginning. The transition period which runs until the end of 2020 is aimed at giving time for the Government and Brussels to thrash out the future relationship between the UK and EU.

Although both sides agreed to the timetable, the EU has already suggested that it would be impossible for the kind of trade deal Boris Johnson wants, where the UK would be free to diverge significantly from Brussels' rules.

The Prime Minister has said it is "epically likely" that a deal will be agreed in time.

When will talks start?

Downing Street has said the UK is prepared to sit down at the negotiating table on February 1. But the EU side may not be ready until March as all 27 members have to sign up to a joint position - something that will further eat into the tight timetable.

The transition period could be extended by up to two years.

The Brexit commemorative 50p coin (HM TREASURY/AFP via Getty Images)

But the Government is keen to avoid another cycle of brinkmanship over Brexit deadlines and has put a measure banning ministers from agreeing an extension into legislation.

What will the trade deal look like?

The Government has said it will "no longer be a rule-taker" from the EU, signalling that the UK will diverge away from Brussels' regulations under a Canada-style free trade agreement.

This could benefit some business areas but damage others, such as manufacturers with close ties to EU markets or suppliers. "There will be an impact on business one way or the other, some will benefit, some won't," Chancellor Sajid Javid admitted.

The Withdrawal Agreement (PA)

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said the less the UK abides by the rules of the single market "the more distant they will be, the more difficult it will be to have access".

What else could happen?

One of the big benefits the Government hopes will come from Brexit is a trade deal with the US. After January 31, the UK will be able to start negotiating deals and both sides have talked up the prospect of a transatlantic deal.

US President Donald Trump said he was looking forward to a "tremendous new deal with the UK" while at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January.