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MEPs set to approve Brexit deal in historic vote

The European Parliament is set to approve the terms of the UK's departure from the European Union in an historic vote on Wednesday.

The 751 representatives will debate the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement in Brussels before, it is widely expected, giving their backing to the UK-EU treaty.

The landmark session is set to feature valedictory speeches and even music.

It will mark the final stage of the ratification process, ahead of the UK’s exit at 23:00 GMT on 31 January.

The UK participated in its last meeting as an EU member on Tuesday when Foreign Office minister Chris Pincher attended the General Affairs Council.

The 751 representatives will debate the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement in Brussels before, it is widely expected, giving their backing to the UK-EU treaty.

The landmark session is set to feature valedictory speeches and even music.

It will mark the final stage of the ratification process, ahead of the UK’s exit at 23:00 GMT on 31 January.

The UK participated in its last meeting as an EU member on Tuesday when Foreign Office minister Chris Pincher attended the General Affairs Council.

The debate on October’s agreement, which includes among other things guarantees over the rights of EU nationals living in the UK and British expats on the continent, will be opened by the Parliament’s Brexit spokesman Guy Verhofstadt.

Mr Verhofstadt, a former Belgian prime minister, has been one of Brexit’s strongest critics but last week he paid tribute to the UK’s MEPs, saying their “knowledge, energy and wit” would be missed.

Other prominent figures expected to speak include the UK’s Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, who has been campaigning for the UK’s exit since before he was first elected to the Brussels Parliament in 1999.

Ahead of the vote, he told reporters he would miss being the assembly’s “pantomime villain,” but vowed his Brexit Party would not “vacate the battlefield”.

After the vote, scheduled to to take place at about 1700 GMT, the UK MEPs leaving their jobs are expected to be serenaded by their colleagues in a special ceremony.

After the UK leaves, there will be an 11-month transition period in which the two sides hope to negotiate their future economic relationship.

Trade talks are expected to begin in earnest in early March. The European Parliament will also get a say in ratifying any future trade deal.

The UK has insisted talks should not extend beyond 31 December 2020 when a transition period – which will see the UK follow EU rules – comes to an end.

The president of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, told CNN on Tuesday that the timetable for a deal was tight.

He said the UK’s exit would be “painful” for the bloc but building a new partnership based upon friendly co-operation and mutual interests was now essential.

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