European Parliament ratifies Brexit deal

It paves the way for the UK to leave the European Union on Friday (31 January)

MEPs have backed the Brexit deal by 621 to 49 votes, paving the way for the UK to leave the European Union on Friday (31 January).

After an emotional debate that lasted more than two hours, MEPs joined hands after the vote for a rendition of Auld Lang Syne by Robert Burns.

The deal will now go to the European Council, which is likely to give its consent on Thursday.

As British MEPs embraced each other and colleagues in the chamber, European Parliament President David Sassoli said that strong ties would remain with the UK.

The new President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said that the Withdrawal Agreement was “only a first step”.

“I want the European Union and the United Kingdom to remain good friends and good partners.”

Von der Leyen took a hard line, however, on the negotiations to come, arguing that the UK would have to commit to upholding EU standards on environment and workers’ rights.

In his speech, Nigel Farage, the Brexit Party leader, said that he hoped Britain leaving the EU would be the beginning of the end of the bloc.