The European Union grudgingly let go of the United Kingdom with a final vote Wednesday at the EU’s parliament that ended the Brexit divorce battle and set the scene for tough trade negotiations in the year ahead.
In an emotion-charged session at the session in Brussels, lawmakers from all 28 EU countries expressed their love and sadness, while some, notably from Britain’s Brexit Party, their joy.
Some even cried and many held hands during a mournful rendition of the Auld Lang Syne farewell song that contrasted sharply with hard-headed exhortations that Britain won’t find it easy in the talks that will follow the country’s official departure on Friday.
“We will always love you and we will never be far,” said EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
Britain will leave the EU after 47 years of membership. It is the first country to leave the EU and for many in Europe its official departure at 11 p.m. London time on Friday, Jan. 31 is a moment of enormous sadness and reduces the number in the bloc to 27.
With just two days to go until Brexit day, the legislature overwhelmingly approved Britain’s departure terms from the EU — 621 to 49 in favor of the Brexit deal that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson negotiated with the other 27 EU leaders in the fall of last year. The deal’s passage follows last week’s backing by the UK’s Parliament.