EU Parliament raises concerns over UK backtracking on Brexit deal
People are now asking if the EU can trust the British, warns leader of European Parliament’s largest political group.
Theresa May | Photo credit: PA images
Political group leaders in the European Parliament have condemned UK Brexit Secretary David Davis’ comments that the deal struck between the EU and UK last Friday is not “legally enforceable.”
Speaking at a news conference in Strasbourg, Philippe Lamberts, the joint leader of Parliament's Greens/EFA group, told reporters, “Davies can say what he likes but the UK will have to sign up to its commitments for us to have a relationship in the future.”
The Greens have joined forces with the other mainstream groups in signing a resolution which calls on the UK to honour the commitments it made last Friday.
They have also called on heads of state and government gathering for the EU summit in Brussels on Thursday to similarly insist that the UK does not shy away from the pledges it has made.
Davis had earlier sparked confusion over whether Friday's deal is legally enforceable.
Speaking in the UK Parliament on Monday, the country’s Prime Minister Theresa May also insisted Britain's offer of a Brexit fee of around £40bn will be "off the table" if there is no final deal on a future UK partnership with the EU.
Having returned from Brussels last week with a draft agreement on initial divorce matters, May faced a tough grilling by British MPs on the terms of the deal struck on the first phase of Brexit negotiations.
May confirmed the UK has consented to a financial settlement worth between £35bn-£39bn; agreed measures to protect the rights of EU citizens in the UK; and made a commitment to there being no hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
She hailed a "new sense of optimism" in the Brexit negotiations, with "good news" for both ‘Leavers’ and ‘Remainers’ who want a "smooth and orderly" departure from the EU.
"Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed" Theresa May
But, May repeated her warning "nothing is agreed until everything is agreed" as she predicted there could yet be an uneasy path ahead.
Strikingly, the Prime Minister suggested to MPs that Britain would not be handing over tens of billions of euros to Brussels without a final trade deal from the second phase of Brexit talks.
She said: "This offer is on the table in the context of us agreeing the partnership for the future, agreeing the next stage and agreeing the partnership for the future.
"If we don't agree that partnership then this offer is off the table."
On the Brexit financial settlement Davis has said the Treasury’s “estimate” is “something like £35bn-£39bn” but that is also conditional on getting an implementation period and conditional on a trade outcome.
“The impression has been given by the British that what was agreed last Friday was merely a statement of intent rather than a legally enforceable text" Guy Verhofstadt
But his comments, and also those by May, have sparked fury among MEPs who point out the parliament must sign off any eventual deal.
Also speaking at a press conference in parliament on Tuesday, ALDE group leader Guy Verhofstadt, who heads the European parliament’s Brexit steering group, was equally critical of the comments by both Davis and May.
He said, “The impression has been given by the British that what was agreed last Friday was merely a statement of intent rather than a legally enforceable text and these comments undermine the trust which will be necessary moving forward.”
The Belgian added, “Before can make progress in the second phase of the talks it will be necessary for the UK to show that it is ready to stick to its commitment and that these will be translated into the final text.”
“I was surprised and astonished at what I heard from Mrs May. People are now asking if we can trust the British” Manfred Weber
German MEP Manfred Weber, who leads the European Parliament’s centre-right EPP group, agreed. He said, “The statements from Mrs May and Davis that they will not pay unless there is no outcome on the second phase are not acceptable. Our understanding was that, first, we do the divorce and that is agreed so we are asking the Brits to give clarity.
“This is a legally binding document and a basis for future dialogue. This applies to both sides.”
Weber added, “I was, though, surprised and astonished at what I heard from Mrs May. People are now asking if we can trust the British.”
Gianni Pittella, the Socialist group leader in the Parliament, told a news conference that the deal finalised last week was “very vague and contradictory.”
The Italian added: “But at least it is a starting point and we have now started moving forward.”
The EU has been condemned for inviting the Iranian foreign minister for talks in Brussels this week.
MEPs will vote on a raft of energy proposals and debate the future of the EU during the first plenary session of the year, next week in Strasbourg.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and his Council counterpart Donald Tusk led an EU delegation to Sofia to launch the Bulgarian Council presidency on Thursday.
The Peregrine falcon's down-listing is an opportune time to reflect on the CITES convention, writes Adrian Lombard.
MEPs should stand up for EU manufacturers by adding legal certainty to the EU’s new anti-dumping methodology, writes Inès Van Lierde.
There are different reasons why people believe in extremist ideologies or join extremist groups, explains Alexander Ritzmann.