With joy and sadness, UK lawmakers pack up in Brussels

BRUSSELS (AP) — The United Kingdom is leaving the European Union — cardboard boxes and Union Jack socks and all.

With the Brexit moment set for Friday at midnight Brussels time ( 11 p.m. U.K. time) some U.K. legislators at the European Parliament in Brussels who have been fervent Brexit pushers were wasting no time getting ready to get out the door.

Lawmaker Nigel Farage’s office on Tuesday was a jumble of boxes and mementos ready to be packed and shipped. His favorite souvenir? A framed Economist cover with him, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin marching to the big drums of populism.

“It's not meant to be flattering, but in a sense, what it sums up is the great battle that's going on," Farage said in an interview with The Associated Press.

He was still wearing his Union Jack socks, ready for Wednesday's plenary when the EU parliament should overwhelmingly approve the Brexit withdrawal agreement, the last act needed before the U.K. leaves on Friday.

Downstairs in the parliamentary halls, some fans of the Brexit party, also dressed in British colors were posing among the flags of the member states, laughing and shouting at anyone wanting to hear how the EU was “a dictatorship."

Yet for most of the parliament's legislators and many of the departing British lawmakers, the EU remains one of the greatest experiments in peace-building and democracy following the devastation across Europe from World War II.

Among the British backers of the EU are members of the Greens party, who lit lights outside the European Parliament against the darkening sky, a symbolic "We'll leave a light on" action in case British lawmakers ever do return to Brussels.

For a more official occasion, EU Parliament chief David Sassoli will bid the U.K. legislators a formal farewell during Wednesday's plenary, where the Brexit vote will take place.

Even the U.K.'s representation offices will change their name and become the U.K. Mission to the European Union. For insiders, UKReps will become UKMis, and they will still be just as busy, since both Britain and the EU still need to figure their future relationship and trade deals.

One thing is sure though.

“We're passing the point of no return," said Farage. “We"re leaving. We're never coming back."


Follow AP’s full coverage of Brexit and British politics at https://www.apnews.com/Brexit