The European Parliament on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly to approve the Withdrawal Agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom.
The vote was 621 in favour, 49 against and 13 abstentions. After this ratification, while the agreement entering into force is practically beyond doubt, it still needs to be “subject to a final vote (by qualified majority) in the Council” of the European Union, according to the European Parliament, Efe news reported.
The 751 representatives debated the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement in Brussels before, it is widely expected, giving their backing to the UK-EU treaty, the BBC reported.
On Sunday, Britain announced a new fast-track visa scheme for top scientists, researchers, and mathematicians. Preparing a new immigration system for life outside the European Union, PM Johnson revealed the plan just days before Brexit finally takes place on January 31.
The government also unveiled an extra £300 million (356 million euros, $392 million) to fund “experimental and imaginative mathematical sciences research” over the next five years. “The UK has a proud history of scientific discovery, but to lead the field and face the challenges of the future we need to continue to invest in talent and cutting-edge research,” Johnson said in a statement.
On Tuesday, the UK participated in its last meeting as an EU member when Foreign Office minister Chris Pincher attended the General Affairs Council.
The vote was preceded by an emotional debate of the Members of the European Parliament, who bid farewell — sometimes with words of love and warmth — to Britain’s 41-year stay in the world’s largest trading bloc.
The European Parliament’s approval is the final hurdle to be cleared for Brexit to go ahead.
On January 23, the House of Commons (lower house of British parliament) overturned five amendments to the government’s Brexit bill made by the House of Lords (upper house), less than 10 days before Britain is set to exit from the European Union (EU).
The UK has an option to extend the transition but Johnson refuses to, and intends to enshrine the 2020 date in legislation, PM Johnson’s office said.
Johnson was re-elected Prime Minister following his landslide victory in the December 12 general election, deemed as one the UK’s most decisive and crucial.
(With inputs from agency)