EPP Group warns that Parliament will veto any Brexit deal that breaches Withdrawal Agreement

The message comes with EU leaders due to debate Brexit at a summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday.

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

13 Oct 2020

EU leaders and heads of state, meeting physically, are gearing up to discuss, among other subjects, future relations with the UK later this week.

They will take stock of the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement and review the state of the negotiations on the future EU-UK partnership.

On Monday, Boris Johnson said that the time left to get a post-Brexit trade deal in place is in “short supply”, adding that if no deal is agreed by this Thursday the UK is ready to “walk away.”

A UK government spokesman said the time limit was still in place and the government was trying to “bridge” disagreements over fishing rights and state aid for businesses.

Also on Monday, a European Commission spokesman told reporters the ongoing Brexit talks had now reached a “new phase of intensity.”

MEPs have the right to sign off on any deal and, ahead of the summit, the EPP’s Christophe Hansen, who sits on the Parliament's UK Coordination Group, issued a statement, reaffirming what he called “this simple fact.”

The statement by the Luxembourg deputy reads, “The European Parliament will, under no circumstances, ratify any post-Brexit agreement should the UK authorities breach, or threaten to breach, the Withdrawal Agreement.”

The Brexit talks between the two sides resumed in Brussels on Monday following similar talks last week in London.

The EU had set a deadline of mid-October to reach a deal but this now appears unlikely to be met.

“The European Parliament will, under no circumstances, ratify any post-Brexit agreement should the UK authorities breach, or threaten to breach, the Withdrawal Agreement” Christophe Hansen, EPP

The Commission spokesman, asked about the negotiations, said, “it is not our policy to speculate on these talks when they are taking place, but they have been intensified in the past two weeks. We are in an intense phase of negotiations.”

He confirmed that Brexit will be on the agenda at the summit.

Meanwhile, in a letter to UK MPs and peers, civil society organisations warn of their “serious concerns” about the Internal Market Bill, the legislation that has caused a new rift in the Brexit talks because it overrides the Withdrawal Agreement.

The EU wants the Bill withdrawn but the UK has refused to do so.

The letter, with signatories including the Pesticide Action Network UK and the trade union, Unison, warns that the proposed internal market rules pose a threat to the devolution settlements, the rule of law and the UK’s high standards in a number of areas, including housing, health and environmental regulations.

It says the market access principles in the Bill will in practice limit the devolved administrations’ efforts to legislate in areas like environmental protections and tackling obesity.

“Because the Bill lacks any meaningful grounds to justify devolved choices, it would, for example, enable producers in England to sell plastic cutlery in Wales irrespective of an upcoming local ban on single-use plastics. As a result, the UK government’s proposals have a strongly centralising effect and undermine devolution to an unprecedented extent,” it states.

Brian Gormally, director of the Committee on the Administration of Justice, said, “A hard border on the island of Ireland would destroy the peace process. The Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol and the Withdrawal Agreement removed that threat.”

“It wasn't perfect but it did include protection of human rights and equality, it was an international agreement and it was enshrined in domestic law. Now, with the Internal Market Bill, UK ministers will be empowered to change it unilaterally at will. That breaks international law and it also breaks our trust in the good faith of the British government.”

Further comment came from Josie Cohen, head of policy and campaigns at the Pesticide Action Network UK, who said, “This bill threatens to curtail attempts by the devolved administrations to better protect the health of their citizens and the environment from harmful pesticides.”

“It also risks driving a race to the bottom in terms of pesticide standards, which is a far cry from UK government promises that the EU exit will allow us to create a more sustainable form of agriculture, less dependent on hazardous chemicals.”

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