European Parliament ratifies Brexit deal

Britain’s departure from the European Union set in law, to take effect at midnight on Friday.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

European Parliament
European Parliament

Britain’s departure from the European Union was set in law Wednesday as the bloc’s parliament voted to ratify the move, AFP reports.

In the wake of the vote, the UK will leave the EU at midnight Brussels time on Friday.

MEPs voted by 621 votes to 49 to pass the withdrawal agreement, which sees Britain leave the EU institutions but remain under most EU rules during a transition until the end of the year.

Following the vote, MEPs burst into a chorus of “Auld Lang Syne”, a traditional Scottish song of farewell.

The transition will see Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government try to negotiate an ambitious free trade agreement with his 27 former partners remaining in the bloc.

In the Brussels parliament, many MEPs made it clear that they were voting for the withdrawal deal not out of any support for Brexit, but to avoid the disruption of a chaotic no deal divorce.

Some expressed real anguish and regret, and pointed to Britain’s role not only in the development of the European unification project but also to its historic battles against tyranny on the continent.

“If we could stop Brexit by voting ‘no’ today I would be the first to recommend it,” former Belgian premier and chairman of the parliament’s Brexit steering group Guy Verhofstadt said, according to AFP.

“It is indeed a sad issue,” he said, turning to the World Wars of the first half of the last century. “We’re sad to see a country leaving that twice liberated us, twice has given its blood to liberate Europe.”

The day began with Britain’s permanent representative to the EU Tim Barrow—from Saturday to be its ambassador—handing back the withdrawal agreement signed by Johnson, to be stored in Brussels.

“This step ensures that the UK has fulfilled its legal obligations regarding our exit from the EU,” the British mission said.

Later in the day, the MEPs gathered for the historic vote to incorporate the withdrawal agreement into EU law.

After Brexit the United Kingdom will be what the EU calls a “third country”, outside the union, but the political and economic drama will continue.

Britain and Europe will apply EU rules on trade and free movement of citizens until the end of the year, while negotiating a free trade agreement.

Johnson’s government hopes more trade with the United States and Asian powers can help offset the costs of Brexit.