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Brexit: The bitter farewell of the British from the EU Parliament

“It’s not goodbye, it’s au revoir” is written on the screen high up in the large semicircle of room 3C050 of the Brussels European Parliament. The Socialists have invited to say goodbye to their British counterparts and the room is packed. The party leaders from Brussels sit on the podium: Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans, Parliament President David Sassoli, Group Leader Iratxe Garcia and Richard Corbett, head of the British comrades in Parliament.

Actually it should be a hopeful goodbye – no goodbye, just a “goodbye”. But the mood is more reminiscent of a funeral. That is one of those moments in European history, “that make you very sad,” says a visibly touched Timmermans. When it is Corbett’s turn, the guests rise before he has said the first word. “It is the first time that I have a standing ovation for a speech that I have not yet given,” said Corbett.

When he concludes with the remark that the United Kingdom and Gibraltar European Union membership referendum will not work and the British may then return to the EU, his audience will rise again. The European anthem resounds through the hall, everyone stops, Timmermans and Garcia stand with reddened eyes next to Corbett. The German SPD faction leader Jens Geier can not hold back the tears. So much pathos is rare in Brussels.

Perhaps the most sought-after memento of that day is the colorful scarf that Corbett holds up at the end of his speech. Dozens of others wear it, party celebrities anyway. The Union Jack is one end of the scarf, the other is the European flag. In between stands on bright red and deep blue: “Always United”.

If only it were.

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