MEPs leave European Parliament on final day of UK’s EU membership

There was a “moving day” feel in the European Parliament on the final day of the UK’s membership of the EU as staff and MEPs lugged the last of their boxes out of the building.

The names of the UK’s delegation were still mostly on their former pigeon holes, although some tags – including Nigel Farage’s – had been taken by souvenir hunters.

Outside the parliament building several tourists posed next to the Union flag which is still flying and is likely to be taken down at dusk on Friday.

Inside, one kindly staff member was handing out chocolates to anyone she heard with a British accent.

Further afield, the Brussels transport company STIB-MIVB tweeted a video of all the metro stations named after British places or historical figures, including Liverpool, Churchill, Dover and Montgomery.

The video finished with the words “Mind the gap when leaving”.

The Brexit Party marked the achievement of their only goal by staging a “Brexodus” at 9am on Friday featuring a bagpiper leading a procession of their MEPs towards the Eurostar.

Ann Widdecombe was chauffeured through Place du Luxembourg in a taxi decorated with British flags while the remainder followed on foot holding party-branded umbrellas.

They plan to be in Parliament Square, London, for the stroke of 11pm on Friday when a recording of Big Ben’s bongs will sound.

Ann Widdecombe leaves in a taxi from the European Parliament
Ann Widdecombe leaves in a taxi from the European Parliament

It was the final stunt of the week for the party – which saw their leader get a telling off in his last speech to the chamber on Wednesday for decorating his desk with miniature British flags.

Mr Farage left the parliament later that evening to the sound of We Gotta Get Outta This Place by The Animals blasting on loudspeakers.

Ms Widdecombe was unsympathetic towards those grieving the loss of their status as an EU citizen.

She told the PA news agency ahead of her big exit: “One side had to lose in that referendum, would they have cared if we were sad? Would they have cared if we had lost? The answer is no.”

Emotions were running high elsewhere as Remain-supporting MEPs and their staff prepared for life after Brexit.

Although there were some tears on the night of the Withdrawal Agreement, by Thursday night Remainers seemed determined to make the best of it.

The Green Party’s Magid Magid hosted a “Brexit’s shit but let’s party anyway” event at the Place du Luxembourg.

Green Party MEP Magid Magid leaves the European Parliament in Brussels for the last time
Green Party MEP Magid Magid leaves the European Parliament in Brussels for the last time

Those who did not fancy a night in the cold threw a ceilidh in a pub close to the European Commission.

Despite the show of good cheer, many Green MEPs could not hide their anger at being shut out of their main sphere of influence.

Ellie Chown, an MEP for the West Midlands, said: “We’ve got a fundamental democratic deficit in the UK and it’s really galling when people criticise the EU when our democratic deficit is far worse.

“We have unelected members sitting in the House of Lords, we even have unelected Cabinet members.”

She added: “Here in the European Parliament it’s proportional and you get a different type of politics – you’re looking for common ground and engaging in proper dialogue rather than a dialogue of the deaf we have in Westminster.”

Brussels ❤ UK!

— Guy Verhofstadt (@guyverhofstadt) January 31, 2020

Elsewhere, the mayor of Brussels arranged for the city’s Grand-Place to be lit up in the red, white and blue of the Union flag while a band played English rock and folk songs in the square.

Philippe Close set up the event to promote the ongoing ties between Brussels and the UK.