Pomp, tears and bagpipes as Parliament ratifies Brexit treaty

Aye, and bye!

The European Parliament on Wednesday ratified the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement and bid farewell to its British members, capping a two-hour-long debate and more than three-and-a-half years of tortured negotiations between Brussels and the first country to ever quit the EU.

It was a strange and emotional day — one that an overwhelming majority of the Parliament had hoped would never come — with a profusion of farewell parties that involved bagpipes, EU flags and various versions of the song “Auld Lang Syne.” One rendition was by MEPs, many in tears, who held hands and linked arms as they sang in the plenary immediately after casting their historic vote.

The tally was 621 to 49 with 13 abstentions, and it provided certainty — finally — that the U.K. would make an orderly departure from the EU at the stroke of midnight (Brussels time) on Friday.

At that moment, the U.K. will begin a transition period, until December 31, during which it will remain fully obligated to EU rules and laws but will have no formal say in how the bloc makes decisions. The so-called “future relationship” with the EU, including a potential free trade deal, remains to be negotiated.

“I’ve always thought that the country that invented common sense would return to common sense” — Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice President of the European Commission

In a very real sense, New Year’s Eve now becomes the new “cliff edge” — the point at which economic disarray and administrative chaos could ensue if the two sides don’t clinch a deal. There are major obstacles,

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