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EU Parl clears deal; UK set to exit EU today

EU Parl clears deal; UK set to exit EU today
During the final vote on the Withdrawal Agreement of the United Kingdom, MEPs sang traditional farewell song “Auld Lang Syne”. (European Parliament)
BRUSSELS, JAN 29 (AP) | Publish Date: 1/30/2020 11:03:49 AM IST

Britain’s departure from the European Union was backed by European lawmakers Wednesday, after a debate that mixed warm words of love with hard-headed warnings to the country not to seek too many concessions during upcoming trade talks on a future relationship.

The European Parliament overwhelmingly approved Britain’s departure terms from the EU — the final major decision in the four-year Brexit saga. The vote was 621 to 49 in favor of the Brexit deal that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson negotiated with the other 27 EU leaders in the fall of last year.

While backing Britain’s departure in the wake of the country’s vote to leave in a referendum in June 2016, EU countries are already preparing for the possibility that talks on a new trade deal with Britain could collapse by the end of the year, and no-deal contingency planning for a chaotic end to the transition period is necessary.

After Britain’s departure on Friday, the U.K. will remain within the EU’s economic arrangements until the end of the year though it won’t have a say in policy as it will not be a member of the EU anymore. “We will always love you and you will never be far,” said EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on a day when some legislators were moved to tears.

Britain is the first country to leave the EU and for many in Europe its official departure at 11 p.m. London time on Friday, Jan. 31 is a moment of enormous sadness and reduces the number in the bloc to 27. The parliament’s chief Brexit official, Guy Verhofstadt, said that “this vote is not an adieu.”

 

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