European Parliament President David Sassoli has written to his European Commission counterpart Ursula von der Leyen, insisting that the assembly is involved in the high-level Brexit conference, planned for next month.
Sassoli’s letter, dated 30 April, says it is “very important” that Parliament is involved in the conference, which will focus on the state of implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement, the Northern Ireland Protocol and also citizens’ rights.
The exact date of the conference is yet to be determined but is expected in early June. The final round of talks will take place in the week starting May 18.
Sassoli, an Italian MEP, says in the letter that Parliament is a “key player” in talks on international agreements and that its consent is a “precondition” for any final trade agreement on Brexit.
He says that Parliament’s participation will also be a sign of “unity and support” for any deal.
The resumption of Brexit talks next week will mark the penultimate round of discussions between the two sides before the 1 July deadline by which the EU and UK must decide on any potential extension of the Brexit transition period beyond 31 December.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ruled out an extension but, increasingly, senior EU figures say that, given the health crisis, it will be impossible to reach a deal by the end of the year.
“Parliament is a key player in negotiations on international agreements and its consent is a precondition for any agreement to be concluded” David Sassoli, Parliament President
There has been a marked recent toughening of the UK’s approach to the discussions, with the UK government issuing a strongly-worded statement after a meeting of the Ireland/Northern Ireland Specialised Committee in late April, saying, “UK officials reaffirmed our commitment to complying with our legal obligations under the Northern Ireland Protocol, just as we expect the EU to comply with theirs.”
It added, “The UK was clear that our approach at all times will be focused on protecting the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and gains of the peace process, and on preserving Northern Ireland’s place in the UK.”
The UK has also resolutely ruled out EU proposals for a Belfast office of the EU in Northern Ireland.
The decision was welcomed by Jayne Adye, of the Get Britain Out group, who told this website, “At last the UK is fighting back, dismissing the EU request entirely. This strong stance and precise deconstruction of the EU’s argument is a breath of fresh air compared to the dithering and flip-flopping we experienced for so long under Theresa May.”
This - in conjunction with the unyielding stance the UK took in negotiations with the EU last month – clearly demonstrates the UK government has finally re-found their Brexit footing while also dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak.”
“We are seeing a government getting back into gear and dealing with both COVID-19 as well as Brexit - not afraid to stand up to Michel Barnier and the demands of the EU.”
However, an alternative view was put forward by Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, who warned on Tuesday that the current trade talks between Britain and the EU will hit a “crisis” point unless there is progress next week.
He also warned that the EU would not back down on its insistence that progress is made on fisheries and level-playing-field provisions in parallel to the trade talks.
“The simple fact of the matter is that the people of Britain never cared about the north of Ireland and they never will. It will be the majority of the people of Ireland who will determine our own future” Martina Anderson, former MEP
Coveney said, “Unless there is significant progress in the negotiating rounds then I think we are going to reach yet another crisis point in the Brexit negotiations, which from the Irish point of view is very, very serious.”
Elsewhere, former Northern Irish MEP Martina Anderson, who represented Sinn Fein from 2012 to 2020, has accused British people are “not caring” about the province.
Her comments come after a survey said 50 percent of Britons do not care if Northern Ireland leaves the UK. The survey also said the majority support a border poll on reunification between the north and south.
Anderson told this site, “Even during the Brexit debate, in Britain everyone talked about Scotland and no one gave a fleeting glance towards the north of Ireland and the unique and special circumstances of the island of Ireland.”
“The simple fact of the matter is that the people of Britain never cared about the north of Ireland and they never will. It will be the majority of the people of Ireland who will determine our own future.”