29 January 2020 | UK NEWS
The European Parliament has voted this evening to pass the Withdrawal Agreement, as renegotiated by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The vote marks the final step in the long process to turn Brexit into law on both sides of the Channel, and establishes irrevocably that the United Kingdom will now depart the European Union at 11pm this Friday.
While the result was in no way unexpected, given that the agreement had already been signed by the respective UK and EU leaders, this vote was nonetheless a formal requirement in order to complete the process of ratifying the deal on the EU’s end, since the UK’s ratification took place last Thursday when the Queen gave Royal Assent to the European Union Withdrawal Act.
The vote to approve the agreement was passed by 621 to 49, with anti-Brexit parties and factions among British MEPs voting against it in a final symbolic act of defiance. There were 13 abstentions. It is ironic to note that this deal being voted down – had there ever been any actual likelihood of that – would technically have resulted in a no-deal Brexit this Friday.
Nigel Farage MEP – as he will never-more be known – gave his final address to the European Parliament this afternoon. To the evident approval of Brexit Party MEPs, Mr Farage said: “This is it, the final chapter, the end of the road, a 47-year political experiment that the British frankly have never been very happy with.” He added: “I’m hoping this begins the end of this project. It’s a bad project – it isn’t just undemocratic, it’s anti-democratic.”
Mr Farage’s full speech can be watched here:
The Speaker of the European Parliament cut his microphone off in the last few seconds of this speech, as can be seen in the video above, because Mr Farage and his other MEPs chose to prominently display their national flags as he drew it to a close, which is against the rules of the chamber. This is technically a procedural matter, although some commentators have considered it a spiteful move.
Separately, many MEPs broke into a chorus of Auld Lang Syne just after the result of the vote was announced, which can be seen here:
Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit Co-ordinator, said: “In the last couple of days, I have received hundreds of mails from British citizens saying they desperately want to stay or return. So this vote is not an adieu – this vote, in my opinion, is only an au revoir.”
Friday 31st will mark the ‘end of the beginning’ of the Brexit process, and the commencement of an 11-month transition period during which little will change. The Prime Minister has announced that he has no intention of extending this beyond the end of this year, so the full effects of Brexit – positive or negative, depending on one’s perspective and industry – will not be felt until around this time next year. Today’s vote nonetheless marks a pivotal moment in the history of both the United Kingdom and the European Union.
We will bring you updates on the progress of the Future Relationship negotiations as these develop.