01:44 GMT28 January 2021
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    On Wednesday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson signed off on the post-Brexit future partnership agreement that was reached with the European Union on Christmas Eve.

    French Minister for European Affairs Clement Beaune has told France's LCI television that the EU didn't seek to "punish" the UK for choosing to leave the bloc by holding long and intense Brexit negotiations.

    "With Brexit, Britain is punishing itself. We weren't trying to punish it. Britain realised that having no access to the European market would be an economic disaster. This is why, in the deal that was reached, there is access to the European market, but while respecting our conditions and rules", Beaune said on 31 December as the Brexit transition period finally ends today.

    Beaune described this Thuesday as a historic yet sad day "because when a country leaves the EU for the first time after 45 years of living together, it is sad".

    "Brexit must be a lesson that we must push forward better, faster and stronger as Europeans", he added.

    On Thursday, the Christmas Eve Brexit agreement received royal assent which enabled the government to implement and ratify the UK's trade deal with the European Union. 

    Beaune's statement comes just a day after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel signed an agreement on post-Brexit trade and cooperation with the United Kingdom, which was eventually reached last week after several months of negotiations. Later in the day, Boris Johnson signed a partnership agreement as British lawmakers approved the deal.

    The dispute on fishing rights was one of three major sticking points, along with governance and common standards in the negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Union.

    The United Kingdom and the European Union came to an agreement on the terms of their future relationship on 24 December, which included a comprehensive free trade deal and a range of other agreements concerning matters including migration.

    The UK finally left the European Union on 31 January, more than three and a half years after the June 2016 referendum that started the Brexit process, although London and Brussels spent the remaining 11 months of the year bickering over the terms of a wide-ranging future partnership agreement that was eventually reached on Christmas Eve.

    Brexit, European Union, United Kingdom
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