MEPs fight back tears and sing Auld Lang Syne after EU Parliament approves Brexit Withdrawal Bill

  • Video report by ITV News Europe Editor James Mates

Pro-EU British MEPs fought back tears and hugged one another after the European Parliament voted to approve the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

Straight after the vote was ratified - which paves the way for the UK to leave the bloc on January 31 - MEPs across the chamber stood up and held hands and sang Auld Lang Syne.

Of the 684 MEPs who took part in the vote, 621 voted in favour of the bill while 49 against.

Following the vote, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier told the European Parliament: "In this new beginning I would really and sincerely like to wish the UK well."

Referring to the referendum, he said: "Many of us here regret that decision. We continue to regret the vote, but we respect it."

Nigel Farage gave a parting speech in front of other members, taking aim at the EU and saying he believed other countries would soon follow Britain's lead.

The Brexit Party leader, who said he would miss his role as "pantomime villain" in the parliament, said leaving the European Union "should be the summit of my own political ambitions".

Of the 684 MEPs who took part in the vote, 621 voted in favour of the bill while 49 against.

But he suggested that Brexit could trigger a wider debate about the future of the EU.

"I'm hoping this begins the end of this project. It's a bad project, it isn't just undemocratic it's anti-democratic."

Mr Farage and his allies waved Union Flags as he finished his final speech.

As he was rebuked from the speaker's chair for the display, the Brexit Party MEPs gave Mr Farage three cheers.

"This is it, the final chapter, the end of the road, a 47-year political experiment that the British frankly have never been very happy with," the veteran MEP said.

"What happens at 11pm this Friday, January 31 2020, marks the point of no return, once we've left we are never coming back and the rest, frankly, is detail.

"We are going, we will be gone and that should be the summit of my own political ambitions."

MEPs gathered together after the vote.

The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said the EU remains determined to forge a "close partnership" with Britain after Brexit.

Addressing the parliament, Mrs von der Leyen said it would only be a "first step", with negotiations set to start on a trade agreement once Britain is formally out.

"From now on, it's about our new partnership with the United Kingdom. The negotiations are about to start," she told MEPs.

"And just to be very clear, I want the European Union and the United Kingdom to stay good friends and good partners."