In Brief

Uproar and songs as MEPs ratify Brexit agreement

Farage waves Union Jack flags and members of European Parliament sing Auld Lang Syne as Britain bows out

Members of the European Parliament have backed the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement by 621 votes to 49, before standing to sing Auld Lang Syne as the results were announced.

“After half a century of sometimes awkward membership and three years of tense withdrawal talks, the UK will leave the EU at midnight Brussels time (2300 GMT) on Friday,” declared France 24.

The site described it as an “emotional day”, which was “steeped in a mixture of nostalgia, political carnival and historical metaphor”, ending with rancour, song and quote.

Each MEP was handed a certificate, saying: “The European Parliament wishing to pay tribute to the British representatives of the Union’s citizens whose term of office is ending on January 31, 2020.”

However, Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage was in no mood to reciprocate the gesture. He said: “No more being bullied! No more being talked down to!”

He and his Brexit Party colleagues waved small Union Jack flags, in defiance of the chamber’s rules, before his microphone was cut off and he was told: “You break the rules, you get cut off.”

Farage had also warned the EU that other countries may soon leave the bloc. “There is a battle going on, in the west and elsewhere. It is globalism against populism. And you may loathe populism, but I’ll tell you a funny thing, it’s becoming very popular,” he said.

The Independent says his “classless” words to parliament came “scarcely more than an hour after it had sat in harrowed silence, listening to the life story of 89-year-old Auschwitz survivor, Liliana Segre”.

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At the close of the session, European Parliament President David Sassoli said: “It is very hard to say goodbye. That is why, like my colleagues, I will say arrivederci.”

He brought the curtain down by quoting the murdered British MP Jo Cox, who was killed during the 2016 referendum campaign: “We have a lot more in common than divides us.”

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen quoted British author George Eliot, saying: “Only in the agony of parting do we look into the depth of love. We will always love you and we will never be far.”

Some British MEPs spoke of their hope that Britain would one day return. Tearful Green politician Molly Scott Cato spoke of her “grief and regret” at Brexit and her aspiration she would return to the European Parliament “one day”.

MEP Martin Horwood, a Liberal Democrat, received a standing ovation after declaring: “We will be back.”

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