In Brussels Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have overwhelmingly gave their terms of the UK’s departure from the EU.
MEPs ratified the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement by 621 votes to 49 following an debate highly charged with sentiments and vivid human emotions.
After the vote, MEPs marked the UK’s exit by singing Auld Lang Syne, is a Scots-language poem written by poet Robert Burns in 1788, and set to the tune of a traditional folk song. It is well known in many countries, especially in the English-speaking world, its traditional use being to bid farewell to the old year at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. By extension, it is also sung at funerals, graduations, and as a farewell or ending to other occasions.
Several British MEPs said they hoped the UK would return one day although Eurosceptics, including the Brexit Party’s Nigel Farage, used their final speeches to phrase the departure from the EU.
The UK is due to leave the bloc at 23:00 GMT on Friday. The Withdrawal agreement (WA) is expected to be signed off in Brussels later.
Some MEPs have marked the occasion with songs – others wore “always united” scarves. President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen told the UK: “We will always love you.”
Ratification of the Withdrawal agreement, agreed by the UK and EU in October, was not in doubt after it easily cleared its committee stage last week.
To indignation of some Members of the European Parliament, the January Plenary session in Strasbourg started with removal of national flags from the desks in the Chamber.
“The European Union is slipping further. The autocratic socialist Sassoli, who was appointed President of the European Parliament, has ordered to bailiffs to seize all national flags on the banks of parliamentarians. Continuation follows!”wrote Gerolf Annemans, MEP from Vlaams Belang party.
Nigel Farage leading the UK Brexit party expressed his content to leave the bloc.
Germany is willing to accept the UK short-term extension for its departure from the European Union if it will be for the right political reason, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in an interview to N-TV channel.
“We need to know: What will be the reason for this?” Maas said. “If it will be about pushing back the date by two or three weeks to allow lawmakers in London to implement the ratification of the exit bill in a reasonable way, I think this will rather not be a problem” the Minister added.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was up to the EU to decide whether it wanted to delay Brexit and for how long, after a defeat in Westminster made ratification of his Withdrawal Agreement (WA) by the October 31 deadline almost impossible.
British MEP and leader of Brexit party Nigel Farage (pictured) said six month extension would be right time top organise general elections and move on with Brexit.
The European Commission is willing to discuss Brexit with the UK over the coming weeks, a spokeswoman said on August 6. However the decision of keeping intact the negotiated with Theresa May government deal remains unchanged. The Commission expressed readiness to add “words” to it in forms of declarations.
The EU executives have been hoping to avoid a “no-deal” scenario, the bloc is prepared for such an outcome as well.
“The Commission does remain available over the coming weeks should the United Kingdom wish to hold talks and clarify its position in more detail, whether by phone or in person,” the spokeswoman said during regular Midday briefing.
In Peterborough, eastern England on June 6, the Labour Party narrowly held on to a seat in Westminster, overcoming a challenge from Nigel Farage’s newly born Brexit Party to win by less than 700 votes.
Labour candidate Lisa Forbes won with 10,484 votes, while the Brexit Party came second on 9,801 votes, while ruling Conservatives came third with 7,243 votes.
“Despite differing opinions across our city, the fact that the Brexit Party have been rejected here in Peterborough shows that the politics of division will not win,” Forbes said speech shorty after the victory.
However some Brexit supporters attributed victory to ‘Pakistani vote” claiming registration of up to 14 people per household.
Far-right parties’ intentions to create a powerful Eurosceptic bloc in the European Parliament (pciutred) failed when Poland’s ruling nationalists Law and Justice party – and the UK Brexit Party both announced they would not join such a congregation.
Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of Poland’s conservative ruling party Law and Justice (PiS), ruled out joining a political group along with Italiy’s Lega Salvini, France’s National Rally, led by Marine Le Pen, and the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.
Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, which won 29 of Britain’s 72 seats in the European Parliament, also said it would not join Marine Le Pen‘s Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) group. Britain is due to quit the EU on October 31 but the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) will start their work from July onward, and stay until Brexit takes place.
Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage said he did not know if he could have a meeting with Donald Trump during the U.S. president’s state visit to the UK. (Image: archive).
Farage said he was waiting for a call from Trump.
The European Parliament election in the UK on May 23 is expected to demonstrate the polarization of views over Brexit, with strongly Eurosceptic and Eurocentric parties. (Image above: European Parliament, Strasbourg, France).
The pro-Brexit voters are largely expected to support Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party. Among the Remainers the vote will be splintered between several strongly Eurocentric parties: the Liberal Democrats, Change UK and the Green Party.
The United Kingdom is divided into 12 electoral regions – nine in England, and one each for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In total it will elect 73 Members of the European Parliament (MEP).
Parties submit a list of candidates for each region, and voters select a party rather than an individual candidate. As the seats are allocated to a party, they in turn allocate them to candidates starting from the top of their list.
Britain is taking part in the elections because it delayed the date of its exit from the EU, but its MEPs will leave the parliament when Brexit happens. If the UK has left the EU by the end of June, the MEPs will not take up their seats.
Debating with European Council president Donald Tusk and Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker the European Parliament largest political group leaders gave their support to the decisions taken by the EU heads of states and governments, concluding March 21-22 Summit to avoid a disorderly Brexit, giving additional opportunities to Theresa May government to avoid the UK departing from the bloc without an agreement. At In the second March European Parliament plenary numerous MEPs also individually expressed solidarity with pro-EU UK movements and bitterly criticised Westminster for incapacity to build a majority around any of possible models of moving forward.
The UK MEPs represented a variety of view, from ardent supporters of the EU membership, to staunch sovereignists, requesting immediate departure from they bloc without further delay.
In the situation when the Article 50 Agreement has not been delivered by the government, and the proposed deal was voted down twice by the Westminster, Alyn Smith from Scottish National Party (UK, Greens) MEP says the best way out is to stay in the EU. He reminded that his native Scotland voted to remain in the bloc.
Nigel Farage MEP, accused UK politics of being dishonest, while attempting to stop Brexit,the “Westminster has betrayed the greatest democratic vote in the history of our country“, he said, and vowed Brexiteers would not let it happen without consequences.
The top EU negotiator for Article 50 Agreement Michel Barnier reiterated that the deal was produced in co-operation with the UK, and not “against” the UK. He also underlined the unprecedented difficulty of the process, being not “trade talks“, but “exit” talks, and that it was a unilateral decision of Britons to leave, so they a have to assume the responsibilities for the consequences.
Although there is an understanding that Brexit without a legal framework would be a catastrophe, the ‘open end‘ extension of Article 50 is not considered as an option for Members of European Parliament (MEP), who consider it would import British political crisis from the Westminster, and block the development of the European Union. There is also a concern that Brexit crisis might ‘hijack‘ the European elections, imposing its own agenda.While the MEPs recommend, it is up to the European Council to decide if an extension can be granted, and for what period of time.
Julie GIRLING, MEP (EPP, UK), explains that the request to shift the UK departure deadline (March 29) might be refused as a result of the alliance between Matteo Salvini Eurosceptic Lega and Nigel Farage Brexit party, insisting “Leave means leave’“.