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'Blind Brexit' warning as European Parliament approves the UK's withdrawal from Europe

The UK is heading for a "blind Brexit" with no certainty about vital trade agreements and customs checks an MEP warned as the European Parliament today voted to sign off the withdrawal deal.

South East representative Antony Hook (Lib Dem) believes there is little chance these will be negotiated in time for the government's self-imposed deadline of January 31 with potentially damaging implications for Kent.

KMTV report from from the European Parliament in Brussels

Today marks the last time UK MEPs will have a say in parliament as they bring the curtain down on their careers.

Speaking to the KM's political editor Paul Francis at the European Parliament in Brussels, Mr Hook said: "Kent is obviously going to be hugely affected by Brexit, we have the main ports, but at the end of the year we have the potential for another cliff-edge scenario.

"This year, we have a blindfold Brexit - everything remains the same for 11 months but we no longer have a say in any of the institutions."

He added there was also no certainty that member states with elections this year would not return governments who had a different view to their predecessors, potentially disrupting negotiations.

Paul Francis interviews Liberal Democrat MEP Anthony Hook
Paul Francis interviews Liberal Democrat MEP Anthony Hook

Labour MP John Howarth, however, tried to strike a note of optimism in the face of his own sadness that he was leaving, saying he was proud of what the party had done in the EU.

"You have to get on with life but I have always argued this is a grave mistake for Britain and still do," he said.

"I hope I am wrong about the economy because I don’t want people to feel the hard end of this."

Meanwhile, Nigel Farage had his farewell speech as an MEP curtailed abruptly when he fell foul of rules banning flags from the EU chamber.

The South East MEP, the architect of Brexit, was in full flow when he was ordered to remove the flags from where he and Brexit party colleagues were sitting.

He refused to and following a reprimand walked out of the chamber.

The press gallery at the European Parliament
The press gallery at the European Parliament

Earlier he said the UK’s departure would bring benefits.

"No more financial contributions, no more European Court of Justice, no more common fisheries policy, no more being talked down to, no more being bullied," he said.

"We don't need these institutions - we love Europe but not these institutions," he added to a mix of cheers and jeers.

Mr Farage said Brexit had cut the ties with the EU on a permanent basis.

"Once we have left that is it we are not coming back," he said.

South East MEPs earlier said the vote will be a bitter-sweet moment.

Analysis by Paul Francis

In the end, it was probably a bit of a let down. The much hyped meeting of the European Parliament to ratify the UK's Withdrawal Bill did provide Nigel Farage with another opportunity to act the pantomime villain but even he seemed a little weary.

The UK MEPs were showered with declarations of love - a kind of political "Dear John" letter that promises the snubbed boyfriend that they can still be friends.

Perhaps it was the heat. Officials seemed to have ramped up the thermostat in the plenary chamber to try to send everyone to sleep.

The love bombing continued as speaker after speaker expressed their regret and sorrow at the UK's departure. Some one quoted poetry. Dan Hannan, the long serving Conservative MEP took us down memory lane, saying that it could all be traced back to the Maastricht Treaty.

Nigel Farage pulled out his party trick with his flags - not exactly on the same scale as the kind of thing Extinction Rebellion does - and was cut off in his prime and walked out of the chamber before he could be unceremoniously ejected.

But it was not the high octane drama expected.

Farage claimed that the UK would not be coming back. He may be right, he may be wrong.

There's always a chance, of course, that the UK could be enticed back into the fold.

But don't bet your house on it.

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