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Lib Dems leave Irish MEP Barry Andrews a 'generous' goodbye gift

The party’s 16 MEPs left the EU Parliament on a sweet note.

PARTING IS SUCH sweet sorrow, so the famous Shakespearean phrase goes – but it was made a little bit sweeter by the Liberal Democrats’ former MEPs.

The party’s 16 departing members of the European Parliament left hampers filled with British goods for the six MEPs that would replace them in their European grouping Renew Europe – including Irish MEP Barry Andrews, who took up his Strasbourg seat in February.

73 British MEPs were elected last May during the European elections, despite the UK’s looming exit from the EU. In that European election, 27 extra MEPs were elected across the EU member states – with the expectation that the UK would leave and those 27 MEPs would then take their seats.

This finally happened on 1 February, when the UK officially left the EU. This resulted in all British representation being withdrawn from the European Commission, Council and Parliament (they took the Union Jack down, too).

Among those 27 extra MEPs (sometimes referred to as ‘cold storage’ MEPs) were two Irish parliamentarians: Fine Gael’s Deirdre Clune, and Fianna Fáil’s Barry Andrews.

Andrews, whose party Fianna Fáil is in the same political grouping as the Liberal Democrats, was left a parting gift by his departing colleagues: a hamper full of products from the UK.

Among the goods were Yorkshire Tea, Henderson’s Relish, Scotch whisky Chivas Regal, and a Yorkshire pudding and pancake mix.

A note was left with the hamper that read: “Although we have lost our voice in Europe, at the same time, we wish you well. Please accept these British regional products as a welcome gift.”

Andrews told TheJournal.ie that the hampers were left for all of the new Renew Europe MEPs, of which there are six.

He said that taking up his seat, in place of MEPs like the Liberal Democrats was “very odd” and “there is certainly an air of real regret about the place”.

“The Liberal Democrats made a huge contribution in the group and fought to the end for the revocation of Article 50 – the strange thing for me is that on a personal level I benefited from their campaign ultimately running out of road.”

“That makes the gesture all the more generous and appreciated,” he said.

The former leader of the Liberal Democrat MEPs group Catherine Zena Bearder said that the hamper was “a gesture to welcome MEPs joining Renew Europe, a team we so enjoyed and were proud to be part of”.

“Although Brexit means we will lose our voice at the table in the EU on so many issues – issues we want to fight for, like standing up for human rights and protecting the environment – we will continue to champion the internationalist values we hold dear, here in the UK.”

The Renew Europe group is now the third largest in the European Parliament (97 MEPs), while the EPP (Fine Gael’s EU party) has is the largest, on 187 seats. The second largest party is S&D, with 148 seats in the post-Brexit cycle.

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