Brexit Countdown: MEPs Approve Johnson’s Brexit Deal, Bidding Emotional Farewell to UK

Written by | Tuesday, February 4th, 2020

Emotional scenes break out as MEPs from the United Kingdom take part in their last session at the European Parliament. After 621 to 49 MEPs voted to approve the Withdrawal Agreement on Wednesday (29 January) – paving the way for the UK to leave the EU on Friday (31 January) –European politicians joined hands and tearfully sang Auld Lang Syne by Robert Burns – a Scottish song traditionally used to mark farewells. The deal will now go to the European Council, which is likely to give its consent today (30 January). As British MEPs embraced each other and colleagues from the other EU member states in the chamber, European Parliament President David Sassoli stressed that strong ties would remain with the UK.
British MEP Nigel Farage, leaders of a Eurosceptic ‘Brexit’ political party, who led an unofficial campaign to leave the bloc, took the last opportunity to slam the EU: “No more financial contributions, no more European Court of Justice, no more common fisheries policy, no more being talked down to, no more being bullied.” Farage, whose party won 29 seats in the last European election, also pledged to continue campaigning “all over Europe” against the EU in the coming years and described three countries – Italy, Denmark and Poland – as “frontrunners”, being among those most likely to next exit the EU. He also boasted of the benefits of populism in a pugnacious, flag-waving speech before eventually being cut off.
Meanwhile, perhaps symbolically on the same day, Scotland’s Parliament voted to hold a new referendum on Scottish independence, a move intended to increase political pressure on the British government as the UK leaves the EU. Lawmakers in the Edinburgh-based legislature voted 64-54 to call for holding a referendum “so that the people of Scotland can decide whether they wish it to become an independent country.” However, the vote is widely seen as a rather symbolic gesture towards London. A binding referendum can’t be held without the British government’s agreement, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier this month rebuffed the Scottish government’s request for a new poll to be held on the independence question, arguing that the plebiscite held in 2014, in which Scots rejected independence, was presented as a once-in-a-generation vote and thus should not be repeated. But Scotland’s pro-independence government points out that Brexit changes everything: in 2016, UK as a whole voted narrowly to leave the EU, but voters in Scotland opted by a large margin to remain.

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