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'Normally you’d be celebrating - but not this time': Ireland's newest MEPs to take their seats thanks to Brexit

Ibec has said that a new economic order awaits Ireland following the UK’s departure today.

THE UK WILL officially leave the European Union at 11pm tonight – meaning its 73 MEPs will soon be replaced by those waiting in ‘cold storage’. 

The UK’s representation in the European Parliament – its 73 MEPs – will be retracted meaning other countries will get now get a few new MEP in their place. 

27 of the UK’s seats will be redistributed among 14 EU member states, increasing Ireland’s representation from 11 MEPs to 13. 

The remaining 46 UK seats have been set aside for future allocations should new member states join the EU.

Fine Gael’s Deirdre Clune and Fianna Fáil’s Barry Andrews were elected in the European elections on 24 May last year, but haven’t taken their seats, as they were waiting for Brexit to officially happen. They haven’t been paid as MEPs since being elected.

Clune, as a former MEP, was entitled to ‘transitional’ pay for 6 months after the last parliament dissolved which she says made the interim period easier. 

She’s looking forward to returning to Brussels and seeing the back of the ‘see-saw’ that was the UK’s exit from the EU. 

On taking up a seat on the back of the UK leaving Clune said she’s “kind of sad they’re going. It’s a pity they’re leaving, it’s Europe’s loss as well”.

Barry Andrews told that while he’s excited to take up his seat he’d rather it was under different circumstances. 

Normally when you take up your seat in parliament you’d be celebrating, but not this time.

Since May’s election, Andrews said he’s spent his time been minding his children and coaching an under-15s soccer team which has been “brilliant for obvious reasons”.

He said he would have enjoyed the down-time a lot more if there hadn’t been so much uncertainty around the UK’s departure date. 

A spokesperson for the European Parliament said member states have been notifying those who are waiting to take their seats for the last number of weeks. 

“There is no such a state like ‘waiting MEPs’ or ‘frozen MEPs’, either a person is an MEP or not. Therefore, if notified by the MS before the 1st of February, they will become MEPs only then,” the parliament spokesperson said. 

They added that while there is no deadline, most member states will have notified Parliament by 1 February adding that “those who have been already notified by 1 February will become MEPs only then”. 

european-parliament Brexit Party Leader Nigel Farage celebrating Wednesday after the European Parliament ratified the withdrawal agreement. DPA / PA Images DPA / PA Images / PA Images

On Thursday MEPs, sitting in Brussels, voted by 621 to 49 in favour of the Withdrawal Agreement, paving the way for Britain to leave today with a deal in place. 

To mark the occasion, the Brexit Party will hold a celebration in Trafalgar Square later tonight on the foot of Boris Johnson’s failed attempt to get Big Ben to bong at 11pm. 

As of 11pm tonight, the UK will have officially left the EU and will then enter the transition period, where the UK remains in the Single Market and the Customs Union to give people, government and businesses time to prepare for the new trading rules and standards that will come in after the transition period (what exactly these are has yet to be decided).

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier told EuroParl radio that the EU is willing to prolong the transition, the time during which the UK is still a member of the Customs Union and Single Market, for one or two more years. 

“If we have no agreement that day, we could have to face the risk of a cliff edge for trade between the EU and the UK.

“Obviously, it is an emotional moment, a sad day for most of us because we regret Brexit but my job, my mandate for the last three years was and still is to organise an orderly Brexit for everybody.”

Ibec, the group that represents Irish business, has said that a new economic order awaits Ireland following the UK’s departure. 

“Immediate challenges remain on the horizon for Irish business. The new arrangements for Northern Ireland are complex, and many of the specific details of how they will work in practice still need to be worked out,” Ibec CEO Danny McCoy said.

McCoy warned that Johnson’s deal does not deliver the same economic benefits for Irish business as the previous all-UK ‘backstop’ proposal which he says could have “significant negative economic implications for Ireland in due course”.

“We have also been left with short, overly ambitious timelines to agree a future trade deal, which do not reflect business realities.”

- With reporting from Gráinne Ní Aodha

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