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Historic Brexit vote in European Parliament set to approve on Wednesday

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

SNS | New Delhi |

The European Parliament is set to approve the terms of the UK’s departure from the European Union (EU) in a 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 BBC reported.

The landmark session to be opened by the Parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt is set to feature valedictory speeches and even music.

After the vote, scheduled to take place at about 5 pm, the UK MEPs leaving their jobs are expected to be serenaded by their colleagues in a special ceremony.

It will mark the final stage of the ratification process, ahead of the UK’s exit at 11 pm on Friday.

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 European Parliament’s approval is the final hurdle to be cleared for Brexit to go ahead.

However, Wednesday’s session will be largely symbolic. The outcome of the vote is not in any doubt after the Withdrawal Agreement was signed off by key parliamentary committees last week.

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).

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said that the UK and EU had agreed in the political declaration to do a trade deal by the end of this year and they were “confident” they will do that, the BBC reported.

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.

After Johnson claimed huge victory, European leaders will charge EU negotiator Michel Barnier with negotiating a close trade deal with Britain.

A landslide Conservative win would mark the ultimate failure of opponents of Brexit who plotted to thwart a 2016 referendum vote through legislative combat in parliament and prompted some of the biggest protests in recent British history.

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)