17:38 GMT19 February 2020
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    MOSCOW (Sputnik) - The European Parliament approved the UK Withdrawal Agreement on Wednesday in a 621-49 vote with 13 abstentions.

    "The European Parliament has voted, it has given its consent with an overwhelming majority to the withdrawal agreement and now it is Council tomorrow that has to give its final approval in order to wrap up the necessary formalities so that the UK can withdraw from the EU on midnight on Friday, January 31," David Sassoli, the parliament's president, said.

    Sassoli lamented that, for the first time, an EU member state would be leaving the union. The president stated that despite the sadness caused by Brexit, the European Parliament has always respected the will of the UK population.

    "I remember how disconcerted we all felt when back in June 2016 we heard the news that the UK had decided to leave the European Union. Of course, we have always fully respected the decision of the people of the UK and their will to build a different future, a future outside the EU," the president said.

    After Sassoli read out the results of the vote, the European Parliament stood in unison to bid farewell to the United Kingdom by bursting into the chorus to sing Auld Lang Syne, a Scottish poem written by Robert Burns.

    The president of the European Parliament also took time to speak on the future relationship between Brussels and London, stressing that both parties could find common ground and overcome their differences.

    "You're leaving the European Union, but of course, you'll still be part of Europe," Sassoli remarked.

    After being ratified in the European Parliament, the UK Withdrawal Agreement will be voted on by the European Council on Thursday. If approved, the United Kingdom will officially leave the EU on midnight on Friday. An 11-month transition period will follow, with the UK and EU having until December 31 to complete a number of negotiations, most importantly, a free trade deal.

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