UK hands in Brexit file as British EU lawmakers say 'au revoir'

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The EU ratifies the Brexit withdrawal agreement paving the way for UK's departure from the bloc on Friday.
British Members of the European Parliament with red-and-blue scarves with EU and British flags on them ahead of their last plenary session of the EU Parliament in Brussels yesterday. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BRUSSELS • Britain's ambassador to the European Union passed documents formalising Brexit to a senior EU official yesterday, hours before European lawmakers were due to sign off on a deal that will see Britain finally quit the bloc tomorrow.

Three-and-a-half years after Britons voted to leave, Mr Tim Barrow handed over a dark blue leather file embossed with the emblem of the United Kingdom, against a backdrop of British and EU flags at the bloc's Brussels headquarters.

The European Parliament was due to give its final consent to the EU-UK Brexit deal yesterday, after which lawmakers would throw an "au revoir" party for their 73 departing colleagues.

After protracted and often tortuous divorce talks, Britain will leave the club it joined in 1973 at 11pm GMT tomorrow (7am on Saturday Singapore time), when British flags will be removed from EU offices and the EU flag will be lowered on the British premises there.

On his last working day as a Member of the European Parliament, leading Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage told reporters there was "no going back" once Britain leaves.

"The UK didn't fit, we'd be better off out," he said, describing euro-scepticism as a settled view in Britain, where the 2016 referendum was won by a narrow 52 per cent to 48 per cent margin.

While Mr Farage was beaming, his compatriot Jude Kirton-Darling, a socialist Member of the Parliament, held back tears.

"It's probably the saddest day of my life so far. Brexit is something that attacks the very foundation of our identity," said Ms Kirton-Darling, who plans to stay in Brussels with her Belgian husband.

She wore a red-and-blue scarf with EU and British flags on it and a caption reading "Always United".

Mr Barrow will become Britain's foreign ambassador to the EU, and the UK Permanent Representation, or UKRep, will become a foreign mission - already dubbed "UKmissEU" by some.

With just 11 months left of a status-quo transition period designed to smooth the Brexit process, fresh negotiations will begin soon on a new relationship - covering everything from trade to security - between the two sides.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 30, 2020, with the headline UK hands in Brexit file as British EU lawmakers say 'au revoir'. Subscribe