The European Parliament on Wednesday is set to overwhelmingly approve the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union — the final major decision in the four-year Brexit saga.
With only two days to spare, the legislators will vote to approve the withdrawal agreement that will end the 47-year membership of Britain. At the same time, the vote will cut the 73 U.K. parliamentarians from the 751-seat legislature where die-hard Brexiteers have been a disruptive force for years while others steadfastly sought to build a more united Europe.
“We’ve achieved our goal,” said British member of the European Parliament Nigel Farage who has campaigned for Brexit for two decades, leaving with a smile and a sense of accomplishment.
Preliminary votes in committees have already shown that the exit should be approved by a massive margin.
For many though, the first departure of an EU member after the group had grown from an initial six to 28 remains a body blow.
”It’s an incredible sad and painful moment,” S&D socialist Tiemo Woelken said. “We’ll wait for your return to our European family.”
In a solemn moment, European Parliament President David Sassoli will thank the U.K. members for their co-operation from inside the EU. There still is a final session the British legislators can attend on Thursday, but then they have to vacate their offices.
Now, everything moves to negotiations on how to co-operate in the future. Britain seeks to have a full trade deal within the next 11 months and want a transitional period during which they will still abide by EU rules and regulations to be as short as possible.
The EU has said such a timespan is far too short to have any kind of comprehensive deal and fears remain that a chaotic exit, averted this week, might still happen at the end of the year if the transition ends without any agreement in place.