MEPs have ratified Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, rubber stamping Britain’s departure from the EU on Friday.

The vote in the European Parliament was a formality – and came after senior EU figures formally signed the deal.

MPs in the British parliament passed the prime minister’s Withdrawal Agreement Bill last week.

Still from Sam Coates VT on the second stage of Brexit negotiations

Mr Johnson signed it in Downing Street after the legislation had been given royal assent.

Dominic Raab signed the official document ratifying the deal for the UK side, which was taken to Brussels to Sir Tim Barrow, Britain’s ambassador to the EU.

The foreign secretary said it was an “historic moment” and “the start of a new chapter for an independent, sovereign Britain, looking forward to a decade of renewal and opportunity”.

Opening the debate in the European Parliament, Guy Verhofstadt said Brexit was a “sad” moment for the EU.

“It is sad to see a country leaving that twice liberated us, has twice given its blood to liberate Europe,” the chamber’s Brexit co-ordinator said.

Mr Verhofstdt predicted the UK would eventually rejoin the bloc.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told MEPs she wanted to “forge a close partnership” with the UK post-Brexit.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a European Parliament plenary session in Brussels
Ursula von der Leyen said ‘we will always love you’

“The Withdrawal Agreement is only the first step,” she said.

“From now on it’s about our new partnership with the United Kingdom. The negotiations are about to start.

“And just to be very clear, I want the European Union and the United Kingdom to stay good friends and good partners.

“The story is about old friends and new beginnings and we have a lot in common.”

Ms von der Leyen concluded by saying: “We will always love you and we will never be far, long live Europe.”

Giving his final speech in the chamber, Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage said the UK was “never coming back”.

As he finished his address, Mr Farage and his allies waved Union Flags, drawing a rebuke from the chair.

The withdrawal agreement covers the terms of Britain’s departure from the bloc after 47 years of membership.

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage waves a British flag while speaking at a session of the European Parliament
Nigel Farage waves a Union Jack while speaking in the European Parliament

It includes an agreement on future citizens’ rights, arrangements for the Northern Ireland border and the “divorce bill” Britain will pay Brussels.

There will be a farewell ceremony for British MEPs after the European Parliament vote.

Once the UK has left the EU, it will enter into an 11-month transition period.

This timeframe, during which Britain will continue to follow EU rules and regulations, is to allow for the two sides to negotiate the terms of their future relationship.

Mr Johnson has promised not to extend the transition period beyond the end of December, despite senior EU figures warning that a comprehensive deal will not be possible in such a short space of time.

Brexit Night Live: Watch and follow the moment Britain exits the EU with a special programme from 9pm on Friday 31 January