Brexit: MEPs set to back Withdrawal Agreement in historic vote
29 January 2020, 10:17
The European Parliament is set to approve the bloc’s divorce deal with Britain on Wednesday in a historic vote paving the way for the country to exit the EU on Friday, Euronews report.
The 751 MEPs will vote on the Withdrawal Agreement at 18:00 CET following debates and speeches.
The EU parliament’s ratification of the deal is the last hurdle in the divorce proceedings and comes just two days before the UK exits the bloc at midnight on January 31.
British lawmakers gave their final backing earlier this month, less than a month after Prime Minister Boris Johnson secured a sweeping parliamentary majority in a snap election.
Royal Assent was granted on January 23 and on Tuesday, Dominic Raab, Britain’s Foreign Minister, signed the Instrument of Ratification — a document which must be signed by officials on both sides.
Debates on Wednesday are expected to focus on the Brexit impact on the island of Ireland and on citizens’ rights.
In a resolution passed on January 15, MEPS highlighted that further assurances were needed and expressed concerns “about the application-based approach in the UK EU Settlement scheme, the absence of physical proof for successful applicants, and its accessibility, among other issues.”
But less than a week later, British MPs rejected an amendment brought forward by Liberal Democrat peer Jonny Oates to grant EU citizens in the UK the right to stay automatically, thus removing the need to apply.
They also opposed the Home Office having to provide physical proof of status. Currently, EU citizens granted Settlement status are only provided with a digital status.
A recent survey of more than 3,100 European residents in the UK carried out by the3million group and Northumbria University found that 89.5% of them were unhappy about the proof of status being digital only.
The UK’s official departure on Friday will usher in a 11-month transition period during which the two sides are to negotiate a trade deal.
EU officials including Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, EU parliament President David Sassoli and Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier have all indicated that the timeframe is too narrow to secure a comprehensive free trade agreement.
Von der Leyen indicated earlier this month that sectors to be prioritised include climate change, fisheries, data protection, energy and security, warning that “trade-offs” will be needed.
Meanwhile, British MEPs are currently packing up their belongings and saying their goodbyes.
“It’s been the greatest honour of my life so far to represent Londoners in the European Parliament,” Luisa Porritt wrote on Twitter, adding: “My main takeaway is to never give up fighting for a better, kinder world. Nothing is permanent.”
Twenty-seven of the 73 seats British MEPs will vacate will be reallocated to other member states.
The three UK flags fluttering in front of the European Parliament, Commission and Council will be lowered at an unspecified time on February 1. One is to be displayed in the House of European history museum.