European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tells the UK that Europe ‘will always love you’: Brexit News for Thursday 30 January

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tells the UK that Europe ‘will always love you’: Brexit News for Thursday 30 January

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tells the UK that Europe ‘will always love you’…

The European Parliament has voted to ratify the Brexit withdrawal agreement after an emotional debate which ended with MEPs singing Auld Lang Syne and Nigel Farage being told to take his UK flag with him as he left Brussels forever. Ahead of the vote Ursula von der Leyen told MEPs that the EU remained determined to forge a “close partnership” with Britain after Brexit as she told the UK Europe “will always love you”. MEPs in Brussels overwhelmingly voted to back the agreement, paving the way for Britain to leave with a deal in place on Friday. Ms von der Leyen quoted the poet George Eliot, as she said: “Only in the agony of parting do we look into the depth of love.” She added: “We will always love you and we will never be far, long live Europe.” – Telegraph (£)

  • Final stage before Brexit done as European parliament approves Boris Johnson’s deal – Independent

> WATCH: European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on the UK’s Withdrawal Agreement 

…as MEPs overwhelmingly approve the Withdrawal Agreement

The result was never in doubt. The European parliament voted for the Brexit withdrawal agreement on Wednesday, sealing the UK’s divorce from the European Union after 47 years. When the result flashed up on big screens in the Brussels debating chamber – 621 in favour, 49 against and 13 abstentions – MEPs broke into a chorus of Auld Lang Syne. Some were wearing blue and red scarves that merged the union jack and European flag together. Many linked arms. Most appeared to be joining in – a German MEP had circulated the words in advance. It was a raw and emotional end to a banal debate that had begun two hours earlier, as MEPs sparred over unrelated points of order, such as whether the word “sustainable” should be used in an EU transport strategy. – Guardian

  • European MEPs ‘in tears’ as British colleagues pack up to finally leave Brussels – Express

> On BrexitCentral: Highlights from the European Parliament debate on approving the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement

Nigel Farage vows Britain is ‘too big to bully into a second referendum’ as bids farewell to the European Parliament…

Nigel Farage has said the UK is “too big to bully” into a second Brexit referendum as he and his fellow MEPs waved British flags to celebrate finally leaving the bloc. During the last European Parliament session today with Britain as a member, the Brexit Party boss was cheered by his peers for his part in the campaign to leave. And he vowed: “Once we have left, we are never coming back!” It came just before the EU Parliament voted by 621 votes to 49 this afternoon. Addressing MEPs in Brussels Mr Farage insisted Boris has said there will be no sticking by EU rules after we leave, and this is the “point of no return” And he took his final chance to blast unaccountable EU bosses who “cannot be held to account”. – The Sun

…although flag-waving Farage is cut off before he can finish his farewell speech

Nigel Farage walked out of the European Parliament in a final act of defiance against the EU on Thursday night, as MEPs voted in favour of the Brexit withdrawal agreement. The veteran MEP of more than 20 years standing had earned the fury of EU top brass by “waving goodbye” to the bloc with UK flags in breach of rules forbidding national flags in the parliament chamber. Mr Farage had earlier said: “The most significant point is what happens at 11pm this Friday marks the point of no return. Once we’ve left we are never coming back and the rest frankly is detail. We’re going, we will be gone.” Mairead McGuinness, the parliament’s vice-president who was chairing the session, cut off Mr Farage as he made his farewell speech in an institution he has dedicated his political career to tearing down. – Telegraph (£)

  • On an emotional last day in Brussels, Nigel Farage had this message for the EU… and they didn’t like it one bit – Michael Deacon for the Telegraph (£)

> WATCH: Nigel Farage MEP gives his last speech in the European Parliament

Boris Johnson will tell the EU he is prepared to accept post-Brexit border checks rather than be a rule-taker…

Boris Johnson will tell the EU he is prepared to accept post-Brexit border checks rather than allowing Britain to be a rule-taker in a major speech setting out his aims for a trade deal next week. The Prime Minister will say sovereignty is more important than frictionless trade, defying warnings from Brussels that the UK must accept EU standards on goods if it wants the best possible deal. Whitehall sources have told The Daily Telegraph that while Mr Johnson wants to avoid tariffs and quotas on cross-Channel trade, he will never cave in to demands for alignment on regulations, despite knowing “the consequences that flow from that”. It means Mr Johnson will tell businesses they might face extra paperwork and physical checks on goods crossing the border, a price he is willing to pay to avoid crossing his own “red lines”, which include the right to diverge on standards and regulations, full control of Britain’s fishing waters and the end of European judges’ influence in the UK. – Telegraph (£)

…as a former minister warns him that EU judges must not call the shots on the Brexit deal

Boris Johnson must walk away from trade talks with Brussels if it lets EU judges police a deal with the UK, a former Brexit minister said yesterday. Insisting the European Court of Justice (ECJ) settles disputes on areas covered by a trading pact would mean there is no point continuing negotiations, argues David Jones. He said: “You would be having disputes arbitrated by the court of one of the parties and it is a court that has got a political function, which is to advance the interests of the European Union. The EU has to realise it would be completely unacceptable and if they want to press that then there is no purpose in continuing the negotiations.” – Express

Michael Gove says that Brexit means Westminster politicians no longer have a hiding place

The BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg has been speaking to Michael Gove – the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, also considered to be one of the most important ministers in the cabinet. He spoke about how frustrations in government shaped his opinion on the EU. “I would occasionally say ‘I’m not sure this is a good idea’ and then I was told, ‘Well, there’s nothing you can do about it, this is an EU law’,” he said. “That’s going to change. And as a result, actually, there won’t be a hiding place for politicians like me.” – BBC News

Labour’s election post-mortem blames its defeat on Brexit

The post-mortem examination circulated to the party’s ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) found it would be “unrealistic” not to say its policy to hold a fresh referendum played a “decisive” role. Radicalism was largely ruled out as being at fault in the report by election co-ordinators Andrew Gwynne and Ian Lavery, but they did blame a glut of policies for confusing the public. While the MPs accepted there were “negative views” of the outgoing leader, there was little blame laid at any of his actions. – Evening Express

Lib Dems to call for an end to Brexit divisions after ‘dark day’ on Friday

Remain voters must come together with the rest of the country after Britain’s “dark day” on Friday, the Liberal Democrats’ acting leader will urge before Brexit. Sir Ed Davey, in a speech in Manchester on Thursday, will call for referendum divisions to be buried after Britain leaves the European Union at the end of the week. Britain will cease to be a member of the EU at 11pm on Friday January 31, with Brexiteers planning a celebratory rally in Parliament Square to mark the moment. Acting Lib Dem leader Sir Ed, in an apparent admission that the pro-EU campaign is over following Boris Johnson’s crushing election win, said the country “must no longer be divided by Leave and Remain”. – Evening Standard

UK forcing itself into ‘straitjacket’ over refusal to seek transition extension, claims Irish Deputy PM

Ireland’s deputy premier has claimed that Boris Johnson’s determination not to seek an extension to the transition period beyond the end of 2020 is putting the UK in a straitjacket. Tanaiste Simon Coveney said the European Union will be tailored to a time line that will force choices and a “very intense” negotiation. Following the UK’s departure from the EU on Friday, the UK will continue to follow EU rules while talks take place on a free trade agreement over an 11-month transition period. The Prime Minister has stated he will not contemplate an extension beyond the end of the year. There have been concerns expressed by Irish ministers around the tight timeframe to reach an agreement. – Border Telegraph

Owen Paterson: The EU must realise it no longer holds all the cards

The UK will finally leave the EU on Friday. This is testament to the splendid determination of Leave voters who have been completely unmoved by the endless litany of Remain hysteria and the apocalyptic forecasts of Project Fear. Yet just as the electorate have been unmoved, so too have the EU and elements of the Remain establishment in the UK in their stubborn failure to understand the essence of what we are now negotiating. This misunderstanding has been typified by a series of threats issued recently by the EU and uncritically received as objective truth by credulous media audiences at home. The EU has re-issued its demand that the ECJ should govern any UK-EU trade deal – a completely unjustifiable position which would see the UK subject to the jurisdiction of a foreign court in a manner with only a few, ignominious precedents in history. – Owen Paterson MP for the Telegraph (£)

Matt Ridley: Britain needs to rediscover failure if it wants to prosper

What was Brexit for? After finally taking Britain out of the European Union, the Prime Minister can now start to give us his answer — and the opportunity in front of him is pretty clear. He could speed up, perhaps double, the rate of economic growth by unleashing innovation. After leaving the slow steaming European convoy, Britain must not chug along but go full speed ahead. That means rediscovering trial and error, serendipity and swiftness — the mechanisms by which the market finds out what the consumer wants next. – Matt Ridley for The Spectator 

Asa Bennett: Our showboating MEPs have exposed the European Parliament’s utter pointlessness

The Brexit deal may have already been approved by British and European leaders, the House of Commons and the House of Lords, but the European Parliament has insisted on having the final say today. There is little point speculating about what its 751 members will decide, as they are hardly going to wreck a deal already agreed by their European overlords, and have been planning before the votes are counted what they’ll do to mark the imminent redundancy of their 73 colleagues there representing the United Kingdom. There has already been plenty of showboating, with MEPs from the EU27 lining up to express their sadness about the British leaving, but acceptance that it must happen. They have joined a rousing rendition of Auld Lang Syne in a display of post-Brexit solidarity, as Remainers urge Brussels to “leave a light on” for Britain — or at least Scotland — to one day return (which does not sound very eco-friendly). Meanwhile, the socialists are planning to catch up for a family picture and rendition of the EU’s anthem, Ode to Joy. – Asa Bennett for the Telegraph (£)

Harry Phibbs: The claim that the UK has become a more xenophobic country since the referendum is a damaging myth

Most of us, reflecting on our experience of previous decades, would surely accept that the UK has become a more liberal and tolerant society. Women were more likely to suffer from domestic violence at home, harassment on their commute, and discrimination at work. Gay people found in prudent to stay in the closet. Racism was far more prevalent. As a schoolboy, I remember the anger some of my black classmates expressed about the degrading treatment they experienced from the police. These were ordinary, non-political boys. I had no reason to disbelieve their accounts. There was a downward spiral in community relations. My school was in Pimlico, but some of the pupils commuted up from Brixton. During the Brixton Riots in 1981, they tended to be on the side of the rioters – arguing that the police were to blame. – Harry Phibbs for ConservativeHome

Allister Heath: The Eurosceptic mission will not be over until the EU withers away

The font was tiny, the paper quality poor, but the material, in as much as anybody could understand the turgid legalese, was captivating, especially for a nerdy teenager. The plan, quite explicitly, was to build a European superstate, with lots of French socialism baked in. I perfectly remember the day in September 1992 that I read the Maastricht treaty, and instantly became a Eurosceptic. I lived in France and the government posted a copy to every household ahead of the referendum. I was too young to vote, but I knew I loved Europe’s diversity, the fact that the laws and customs differed so much between the countries: all of that was under threat from the mad harmonisers. I was equally enthralled by the free-market Britain of the time, its vibrancy, entrepreneurialism and excitement, all anathema to the Mitterrand-Kohl vision. It had to be a non. – Allister Heath for the Telegraph (£)

Julian Jessop: The problem with the big ‘cost of Brexit’ numbers

Ever since the 2016 referendum, economists have attempted to estimate what Brexit ‘has already cost’ the UK economy and households. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see some of the most depressing numbers dusted off this week to mark our departure from the EU. But all these studies should be taken with a large pinch of salt. It’s certainly wrong to regard them as gospel truth, or as a reliable warning of even worse to come. There are two main approaches to answering the question of what impact the referendum result has already had. One is ‘top-down’, which looks at the overall performance of the UK economy compared to its peers, usually measured by headline GDP growth. The other is ‘bottom-up’, which focuses instead on specific indicators, notably inflation and investment, where it is relatively clear that the vote to leave has had a negative impact. – Julian Jessop for CapX

Brexit in Brief

  • The EU has failed to grasp the whole political landscape has utterly changed – Sir Robbie Gibb for the Telegraph (£)
  • How it all went right: The great Brexit wound has almost healed – Rod Liddle for The Spectator

And finally… Remainers and Leavers urged to come together over a breakfast of British and EU foods

Organisers of the Make Britain Breakfast Again event at a hotel in Worthing, West Sussex, guests will be treated to a proper English fry-up, with continental options also available. The initiative has been borrowed from the US by East Worthing and Shoreham MP Tim Loughton. In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s election win in 2016, Democrat activists in San Francisco created Make America Dinner Again. A tongue-in-cheek reference to the US president’s campaign slogan, the activists brought an equal mix of Trump supporters and Trump detractors together to eat and debate. The veteran Conservative MP told the PA news agency: “I thought, why don’t we have a similar idea to try and bring us all together post-Brexit. Try to get some discussion about how we are going to make the best of it for all of us.” – The New European