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EU's top two leaders sign off on Brexit deal with promise 'our friendship will remain'

Aubrey Allegretti, political reporter

The EU's two most senior figures have signed off a treaty paving the way for Brexit to happen next week. 

Ursula Von Der Leyen, president of the European Commission, and Charles Michel, head of the European Council, ratified the divorce deal from Brussels' side.

Watching on from behind them was Michel Barnier, who has for the last three years been the EU's lead negotiator in charge of brokering a divorce deal - and then several subsequent changes to please MPs.

It comes a day after the Brexit deal became UK law , when it completed its journey through parliament on getting royal assent from the Queen.

At exactly 7am UK time, Ms Von Der Leyen announced she had signed the deal off meaning it must now be approved by the European Parliament.

Mr Michel, who used to be prime minister of Belgium, wrote in a tweet sent simultaneously: "Things will inevitably change but our friendship will remain. We start a new chapter as partners and allies."

He added in French: "Look forward to writing this new page together."

The treaty was then sent to London for the prime minister to sign, escorted by EU and UK officials.

When Boris Johnson does so, the document will be taken back to Brussels and a special copy will be given to Britain.

Ms Von Der Leyen and Mr Michel are relatively new in their posts, having taken over from Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk respectively last winter.

They will still have a daunting task ahead of them even after Brexit happens on Thursday 31 January, as Brussels and the UK attempt to hammer out a trade deal in the next 11 months.