European politicians joined hands and tearfully sang Auld Lang Syne – a Scottish song traditionally used to mark farewells – following their final vote to accept the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union.
After 621 to 49 MEPs voted to approve the Withdrawal Agreement on Wednesday, President of the EU Parliament David Sassoli held a farewell ceremony the UK’s departing politicians, allowing them to make one last farewell speech in a reception space in the parliamentary building.
Although mostly good-natured, there were shouts of “shame on you” and “sore loser” from the crowd as different MEPs took to the podium.
Packing boxes had been placed outside the offices of British MEPs as the legislature took the final steps in a withdrawal process that has taken more than three and half years since the Brexit referendum saw a narrow 52-48 margin of victory for “Brexiters”.
British MEP Nigel Farage, a hard right figure who led an unofficial campaign to leave the bloc, boasted of the benefits of populism before eventually being cut off in a pugnacious, flag-waving speech.
He had earlier reportedly been forced to pack up his office – only to unpack it again so he could pose with his boxes for photographers.
Farage described the current global political climate as “globalism against populism”, adding: “You may loathe populism, but I tell you a funny thing, it is becoming very popular.
“No more financial contributions, no more European Court of Justice, no more common fisheries policy, no more being talked down to, no more being bullied.”
In response to MEPs who expressed a hope that the UK would one day return to the EU fold, he said: “Once we have left, we are never coming back and the rest, frankly is detail.”
He added: “What we have proved is that the British are too big to bully, thank goodness.”
“We don’t need a European Commission, we don’t need a European Court, we don’t need EU institutions and all of this power and I can promise you that in UKIP and indeed in the Brexit Party, we love Europe, we just hate the European Union.
“It’s as simple as that. I hope this is the beginning of the end of this project, it’s a bad project. It’s undemocratic, in fact, it’s anti-democratic. It gives people power without accountability.”