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EU votes in favour of UK Brexit deal in emotional ceremony

Brussels, Jan 30 (IANS) European Parliament has voted to approve the United Kingdoms departure from the European Union.

MEPs held a debate on the Brexit withdrawal agreement in Brussels before voting 621 in favour, 49 against and 13 abstentions, Efe news reported.

The vote was the final hurdle in the process of the UK leaving the EU, which will take place on January 31, after British MPs previously approved the withdrawal agreement.

The UK’s 73 lawmakers in Brussels were serenaded by their colleagues singing Auld Lang Syne in the ceremony, with many wearing scarfs saying ‘always united’ on their final day.

European Parliament’s Brexit spokesman Guy Verhofstadt said the vote was not in favour of Brexit but against the UK leaving without a deal.

He lamented the fact that the UK was leaving and added: “It’s sad to see a country leaving that has twice given its blood to liberate Europe.”

But he said he was confident the country will rejoin the bloc.

EC President Ursula Gertrud von der Leyen paid tribute to the UK’s contribution to the EU and said she wants them to remain friends and partners.

“We will always love you,” she added.

The UK’s Brexit party leader Nigel Farage said his supporters “love Europe” and added: “We just hate the European Union.”

Molly Scott Cato, of the UK Green party, was emotional and teary as she addressed the chamber.

“Now is not the time to campaign to rejoin but we must keep the dream alive, especially for young people who are overwhelmingly pro-European,” she said, as several of her colleagues wiped away tears.

“I hold in my heart the knowledge that one day I will be back in this chamber celebrating our return to the heart of Europe.”

She received a standing ovation after her speech and was hugged and consoled by a number of her peers.

A number of the UK’s MEPs announced they would be opposing the motion, including Marin Horwood who ended his address by saying in various European languages: “We will be back.”

The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier concluded the debate, wishing the UK well and thanking MEPs for their contributions.

In Edinburgh on Wednesday Scottish lawmakers voted 64-54 in favour of holding a second independence referendum, despite UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson rejecting the idea.

After the UK leaves the EU on Friday there will be an 11-month transition period during which time both sides will negotiate a trade agreement.

The UK voted in favour of Brexit in a referendum on June 23, 2016 and since then parliament has been deadlocked over negotiations on the withdrawal deal.

The ballot split the nation with 51.9 per cent of voters backing an EU divorce and 48.1 per cent opting to remain within the bloc.

The referendum was triggered by the UK’s then-prime minister David Cameron who made calling a public consultation on the UK’s relationship with the bloc a key element of his manifesto during the 2015 general elections.

Cameron supported the remain side and stepped down as leader the day after the vote.

He was replaced as prime minister by Theresa May, the former home secretary who also campaigned for the UK to remain in the EU.

In July 2016 she assumed the position of prime minister and during her inaugural speech in Downing Street, coined one of her best-known phrases, “Brexit means Brexit”.

But she lost her majority after calling a snap election in 2017 and tried and failed to push her withdrawal agreement through the House of Commons three times.

May eventually threw in the towel as prime minister in May 2019.

The leadership role was taken up by Brexiteer Johnson, who secured a huge majority in general elections in December, which allowed him to secure support for his renegotiated withdrawal deal in parliament.




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