“We will always love you and never be far. Long live Europe” were the closing remarks by the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen as the United Kingdom’s Withdraw Agreement was approved by the European Parliament on Wednesday evening by 621 votes in favour, 49 against and 13 abstentions.
The Commission President in her speech spoke of the need for the United Kingdom and the European Union to stay good friends and good partners and then went on to quote George Eliot: “Only in the agony of parting do we look into the depth of love.”
In what appeared to be an emotionally charged atmosphere, some sad, others happy, most speakers on behalf of the political groups highlighted that the UK’s withdrawal will not be the end of the road for the EU-UK relationship and that the ties that bind the peoples of Europe are strong and will remain in place. They also mentioned that there are lessons to be learnt from Brexit that should shape the future of the EU and thanked the UK and its MEPs for their contribution throughout the UK’s membership. Many speakers warned that the negotiations on the future relationship between the EU and the UK are going to be difficult, especially taking into account the timeframe provided in the Withdrawal Agreement.
After the historic vote, President Sassoli said that: “It deeply saddens me to think that we have come to this point. Fifty years of integration cannot easily be dissolved. We will all have to work hard to build a new relationship, always focusing on the interests and protection of citizens’ rights. It will not be simple. There will be difficult situations that will test our future relationship. We knew this from the start of Brexit. I am sure, however, that we will be able to overcome any differences and always find common ground”.
To enter into force, the Withdrawal Agreement will now be put to a final vote by qualified majority in the European Council.
The transition period starting on 1 February is set to expire at the end of December 2020. Any agreement on the future EU-UK relationship will have to be fully concluded before that point if it is to come into force on 1 January 2021.
The transition period can be extended once for one to two years, but the decision to do so must be taken by the EU-UK Joint Committee before 1 July.
Parliament will have to approve any future relationship agreement. If such an agreement refers to competences that the EU shares with member states, then national parliaments will also need to ratify it.
Source: European Parliament