By Ray O’Hanlon
The bagpipes have been heavily employed in Brussels last few days.
They were played Wednesday as a somber and tearful group of Scottish National Party MEPs left the European Parliament building in Brussels for the last time and, to say the least, most reluctantly.
They were played today by Nigel Farage and his Brexit Party colleagues.
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Suffice it to say, this latter employment was a meeting of two drones.
Farage, as is his wont, drew attention to himself a couple of days ago with a familiar display of jingoism in a parliament chamber that he has been so desperate to bid adieu to for so long.
He and his colleagues, some of them in Union Flag ties, waved little flags while Farage sounded off.
This drew censure from the chair as national flags are forbidden in the parliament chamber.
As it happened, the chair of what was a plenary session was Irish MEP Mairead McGuinness. The session included the vote on the formal UK Withdrawal Agreement. It was duly approved by 621 to 49 with some abstentions.
Some pro-Remain UK MEPs cried.
The Farage show that these sorrowful Britons had endured wasn’t all to do with national symbols. The little jacks were merely subbing in for Farage’s middle finger.
The man has been desperate to quit the EU for years.
His actual departure will be seen as a silver lining to the whole sorry Brexit mess by most parliament members, though the more cynical among them might miss the dubious entertainment factor.
And so, in just a few hours at time of writing, the United Kingdom, including its pro-Remain parts, Northern Ireland and Scotland, will take leave of the great European unity project that it signed up for on the first day of 1973, along with the Republic of Ireland and Denmark.
Not a lot will visibly change at 11 p.m. tonight (midnight European time) but the course of Europe and its ex-member will be directed down a new and most uncertain path.
The next eleven months, the so-called “transition period,” will see negotiations aimed at securing a new trade deal between the EU and UK and other compacts.
No matter which way these talks turn they will have profound implications for the people of Northern Ireland, the relationship on the island of Ireland, the relationship between Ireland and Britain and, of course, that between the UK and the remaining 27 EU nations as a group.
The U.S. will be in on the unfolding new act too, and not necessarily as a fan of the European Union.
“Transition” might be too polite a word for what is about to unfold.