European Union signs off on Boris Johnson's Brexit deal

29 January 2020, 17:36

Boris Johnson's Brexit deal has been ratified by MEPs
Boris Johnson's Brexit deal has been ratified by MEPs. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

The prime minister's Brexit deal has been signed off by the European Union, paving the way for the UK to leave on 31 January.

MEPs in Brussels voted in favour of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) on Wednesday evening by 621 votes to 49.

The step means Brexit has now cleared its final hurdle before the UK's imminent departure from the EU at 11pm on Friday night.

There were emotional scenes in the chamber following the historic vote, with a number of MEPs breaking into a rendition of Auld Lang Syne.

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage was greeted by cheers and the waving of Union Flags by his party's MEPs as he declared Britain was "never coming back."

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she was determined the EU and the UK would remain "good friends and good partners."

LBC's Theo Usherwood explains "symbolic" moment EU approves Withdrawal Agreement.

She quoted the poet George Eliot, saying: "Only in the agony of parting do we look into the depth of love."

Ms von der Leyen added: "We will always love you and we will never be far, long live Europe."

Tap here for live coverage of Europe's decision to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement.

Mr Farage led his party out of the chamber for the final time on Wednesday with all members waving British flags.

However, Mr Farage was slapped down by the Parliament's Chair, Mairead McGuinness, who cut off his microphone and ordered the MEPs to put the flags down and leave.

MEPs raised flags in the Parliament labelled "Always United"
MEPs raised flags in the Parliament labelled "Always United". Picture: PA

Michel Barnier, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator told MEPs the UK will "remain a close friend of the European Union."

He recalled several moments spent with his British colleagues during the UK's 47-year membership of the bloc.

Europe's Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt said the departure of a country which had "twice given its blood to liberate Europe" was a "sad" moment.

He predicted, however, that the UK would eventually rejoin, with many British people deeply unhappy at the prospect of leaving.

"In the last couple of days I have received hundreds of mails from British citizens saying they desperately want to stay or return," he said.

"So this vote is not an adieu, this vote, in my opinion, is only an au revoir."

One Liberal Democrat MEP, Molly Scott Cato, was seen in tears after final speeches were read out.

Politicians, international news crews and spectators packed out the European Parliament on Wednesday ahead of the final vote.

The UK's ambassador to the EU, Sir Tim Barrow, delivered the instrument to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement to the European Council on Wednesday morning.