Brexit officially happening on Friday as European Parliament ratifies Withdrawal Agreement

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street to attend the weekly session of Prime Ministers Questions in Parliament in London, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. Britain officially leaves the European Union on Friday after a debilitating political period that has bitterly divided the nation since the 2016 Brexit referendum. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Boris Johnson's Withdrawal Agreement has been ratified by the European Parliament, meaning Brexit is officially happening (AP/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Britain is officially leaving the EU on Friday after the European Parliament tonight ratified Boris Johnson’s Withdrawal Agreement.

MEPs in Brussels voted overwhelmingly in favour of the deal on Wednesday evening, by 621 votes to 49.

The result was met with a tiny smattering of applause before dozens of pro-Remain MEPs stood up, held each other’s hands and started singing “Auld Lang Syne”.

The vote was the final hurdle to stage one of the Brexit process, with the UK now certain to leave the EU at 11pm on Friday.

It will then enter into a “transition period” until December 31, in which the government will negotiate its future relationship with the bloc.

Nigel Farage, the Brexit Party leader and MEP who was a key driving force behind Brexit, had earlier launched one final attack on the “bullying” EU in his last European Parliament speech.

Britain's Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage waves a Union flag as he speaks to the press after the European Parliament ratified the Brexit deal in Brussels on January 29, 2020. - The European Parliament on January 29 voted overwhelmingly to approve the Brexit deal with London, clearing the final hurdle for Britain's departure from the EU. (Photo by JOHN THYS / AFP) (Photo by JOHN THYS/AFP via Getty Images)
Nigel Farage after the vote (JOHN THYS/AFP via Getty Images)

In an inflammatory address, he said: “We love Europe - we just hate the European Union.”

He was joined by fellow Brexit Party MEPs in mockingly waving goodbye with Union Jack flags, before filing out of the chamber.

Guy Verhofstadt, the high-profile anti-Brexit MEP, had started the debate by floating the prospect of the UK rejoining a more “effective and democratic” EU in the future.

“Brexit is also a failure of the union,” he said. “We have to recognise that. There’s a lesson to learn. The lesson is not to undo the union but reform the union.”

Chair of the Brexit Steering Group Guy Verhofstadt addresses European Parliament members during a meeting debate about Brexit at the European Parliament in Brussels, Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019. Even though the British government desperately wants to leave the EU, the bloc itself desperately wants a new U.K. Commissioner on its executive team, even if only for a few months. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
Chair of the Brexit Steering Group Guy Verhofstadt addresses European Parliament members (AP/Francisco Seco)

He signed off: “This vote is only an au revoir.”

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said of the impending negotiations: “Just to be very clear, I want the EU and UK to stay good friends and good partners.”

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Ms von der Leyen said the EU is considering a “unique” free trade agreement in which the UK would enjoy “zero tariffs” - but on condition of Mr Johnson committing to the bloc’s standards on workers’ rights and fair competition.

Mr Farage and his Brexit MEPs booed Ms von der Leyen at this point.

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