Pantomime, travel and rest: what comes next for British EU lawmakers

STRASBOURG (Reuters) – The 73 EU lawmakers of Great Britain packed their offices in Strasbourg on Thursday: for a moment of triumph, for others, for disaster.

FILE PHOTO: A British Union Jack flag is seen on the desk of Nigel Farage (not pictured), leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) and member of the European Parliament, before a debate on the outcome of the last EU-Turkey Summit in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, March 9, 2016. REUTERS / Vincent Kessler /

This week was the last session of the European Parliament in the city of eastern France before Britain left the union on January 31.

There is one more session at the main assembly base in Brussels. But for the British, there will be no more first-class monthly train trips through the Ardennes, and no more dinners with Alsatian wine, choucroute and flambee cake.

Ann Widdecombe of the Brexit Party said she was “delighted” to finish her almost eight month career as a member of the European Parliament.

“I came here to finish Brexit,” he told Reuters. “That’s why I came and we have been quite successful.”

His possessions in Strasbourg, he said, would fit in a cardboard box. He wanted to return to his home in the southwest of England, write, give speeches on cruises and participate in pantomimes.

The 751 members of parliament (MEPs) meet in Strasbourg four days a month and in Brussels for the rest, an agitation that costs millions of euros a year, something that Brexiteers like Widecombe regularly hold as evidence of EU waste.

Brexit Party member Claire Fox said she was not sorry to say goodbye to the French border city. She had only joined the European Parliament to get her country out of it. Britain had stayed “longer than we should.”

Not enough for Luisa Porritt, legislator of the Liberal Democrats, who campaigned to remain in the European Union.

Her MEP career was as short as Widdecombe’s, but she said she felt “very lucky” to have had the experience.

“I’ve been grateful for every extra day I’ve had,” said the 32-year-old, who plans to take a break in Iceland after January 31.

Caroline Voaden, head of the liberal democratic delegation of the EU assembly, said she felt devastated.

“It has been the most interesting job of my life, but that is very minimal compared to the sadness I feel for what it means for Britain.”

The four women joined the European Parliament in the last elections in May 2019, so they will not qualify for the assembly’s goodbye gold: one month’s salary for each year in office, with a limit of 24 months, for MEPs with more than a year under their belts

In just over two weeks, they will close their even larger offices in Brussels and return their access and voting cards, office keys and laptops.

Edition by Andrew Heavens

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