The Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) with 621 to 49 votes, allowing the United Kingdom to leave the European Union on January 31, 2020. In an emotional moment, many of the MEPs came together and sang “Auld Lang Syne” by Robert Burns.
The agreement will be passed to the European Council, which is likely to give its consent on January 30.
Strong ties remain
European Parliament (EP) President David Sassoli said that despite the United Kingdom leaving the European Union, strong ties between Europe and the United Kingdom would remain. “You are leaving the EU but you will always be part of Europe … It is very hard to say goodbye. That is why, like my colleagues, I will say arrivederci,” Sassoli said after signing the deal.
Guy Verhofstadt, the parliament’s Brexit spokesperson said it was “sad to see a country leaving that has twice given its blood to liberate Europe,” adding that the British MEPs had brought “wit, charm, and intelligence” as well as “stubbornness,” and that they would be missed.
According to the president of the European Commission (EC), Ursula von der Leyen, the ratification of the withdrawal deal will be “a first step” towards a new partnership between the European Union and the United Kingdom.
She added that the UK and the EU should work together in handling issues such as climate change. “We will always love you and we will not be far,” she said to the UK during the closing.
After the United Kingdom formally leaves the European Union, there is to be an 11-month transition period, which will be filled with discussions and negotiations on economic relations in the future. Trade negotiations between are expected to commence in early March 2020.
Despite the United Kingdom’s departure, the European Parliament will still be involved in ratifying any future trade deal. The United Kingdom is also adamant about carrying the trade deal negotiations beyond December 31, 2020, when the agreed transition period comes to an end.
According to the BBC, Sassoli said that the United Kingdom’s exit would be “painful” for the European Union bloc. However, he believes that it is now crucial to build a new partnership based upon amicable co-operation and mutual interests.