Global Economy

Brexit countdown: European lawmakers give final approval for UK's departure


The flag of Great Britain is waving in front of the seat of the European Parliament. Two days before Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, the European Parliament also wants to ratify the EU withdrawal agreement at a meeting in Brussels and finally seal the Brexit.

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European lawmakers have voted through the U.K.’s departure from the EU, paving the way for Brexit in two days’ time.

The legal document outlining how the U.K. will leave the European Union — the Withdrawal Agreement — was greenlit by the European Parliament, the EU’s directly-elected chamber, Wednesday. The 541-page agreement had been fully approved by the U.K. parliament earlier this month — after Prime Minister Boris Johnson convincingly won a general election in December.

Wednesday’s vote in Brussels was largely symbolic, but it also paved the way for some practical changes to the EU’s chamber. Representatives from the U.K. are waving farewell this week, meaning that from Monday onwards there will be no British lawmakers in the European Parliament.

The number of EU MEPs (members of the European Parliament) will shrink from 751 seats to 705. The 73 U.K. seats that will be abolished will be slightly offset by 27 other lawmakers coming from other EU members. Their selection took place in May of last year during EU-wide elections.

“I strongly believed then as I do know that leaving this family of nations would be bad for our country,” Luisa Porritt, a U.K. representative at the European Parliament said Tuesday on Twitter.

“My main takeaway is to never give up fighting for a better, kinder world. Nothing is permanent,” she added.

Seb Dance, a member of the U.K.’s Labour party at the European Parliament said earlier this week: “From Friday, key decisions affecting the U.K. will he made without the U.K. For no other reason than to stop the Tory party from splitting. Think on that over the next few months.”

The U.K. will stop being a member of the EU at 11 p.m. London time Friday. A transition period will start from that moment onwards and it is set to last until the end of the year.

During this period, the U.K. will remain subject to EU law, but it will be able to strike trade deals with other parts of the world. The transition will also allow both sides of the English Channel to discuss their future trade and security arrangements.

European President Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday that fair competition must be at the heart of any future arrangements.

“We are considering a zero-tariff, zero-quotas free trade agreement. But the precondition is that EU and British businesses continue to compete on a level playing field. We will certainly not expose our companies to unfair competition,” von der Leyen said at a plenary session in the European Parliament.



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