European Parliament President hails Brexit deal, says assembly will now ‘scrutinise in detail’

On Thursday evening, David Sassoli said, “The Parliament thanks and congratulates the EU and UK negotiators for their intense efforts to reach, albeit at the last minute, this historic agreement.”

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

24 Dec 2020

Speaking after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced a Brexit agreement on Christmas Eve, Sassoli said, “Although I still deeply regret the UK’s decision to leave the EU, I have always believed that a negotiated settlement is in the best interests of both sides. This deal can now form the basis for us to build a new partnership.”

“In just a few days, EU law will no longer apply in the UK. The UK government was clear that it wants to leave the single market, Customs Union, and end free movement. Decisions have consequences - travel and trade between the EU and UK will not be as frictionless as before. It was also the choice of the UK government not to allow for a smoother transition by an extension of the deadline to reach an agreement.”

Sassoli added, “Parliament welcomes the intense dialogue and unprecedented exchanges and unity between the EU institutions throughout the process. However, Parliament regrets that the duration of the negotiations and the last-minute nature of the agreement does not allow for proper parliamentary scrutiny before the end of the year.”

“The Parliament is now ready to react responsibly in order to minimise disruption to citizens and business and prevent the chaos and negative consequences of a no-deal scenario.  The Parliament will continue its work in the responsible committees and the full plenary before deciding whether to give consent in the new year.”

German deputy David McAllister, chair of Parliament’s UK Coordination Group (UKCG) and Chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, told this site on Thursday, “I would like to thank Ursula von der Leyen and Michel Barnier as well as their teams for the patient and tireless work. This is the end of a long and sometimes difficult process four years after the British referendum.”

“As much as we know that there is no good Brexit, it was important that all efforts were made until the very last minute in order to protect the interests of European citizens and businesses and to preserve a strong relationship with the UK in the future” Nathalie Loiseau, Renew Europe

“Many things will change for the UK, since it will no longer participate in our Single Market and Customs Union. The EU has achieved its main objective; namely to preserve our unique model of integration and stability as well as to protect the long-term interests of EU citizens and businesses. The European Parliament will begin its scrutiny work in the new year.”

Further comment came from EPP Group chairman Manfred Weber who said, “We are relieved to know that the EU and the UK have finally managed to agree in principle on our future trade relationship. The draft agreement comes very late, but better late than never.”

“We congratulate and honour Michel Barnier and his team for his commitment and dedication in this historic process. We are about to close this never-ending saga, but we aren’t there yet. Now, Parliament can finally get to work to scrutinise the provisional agreement.”

But some MEPs, including Christophe Hansen, the European Parliament's negotiator on the trade committee, criticised the provisional application of the deal.

He said, “We deeply regret that the negotiations were stretched so late into the year that provisional application was the only way to avoid a cliff edge at the end of the transition period. This is not the legal security that businesses need and deserve after years of Brexit negotiations.”

“We are about to close this never-ending saga, but we aren’t there yet. Now, Parliament can finally get to work to scrutinise the provisional agreement” Manfred Weber, EPP Chairman

He added, “The Parliament will now take its time to scrutinise the deal properly and deliver its verdict in the New Year. This procedure shall not be seen as a precedent for future trade agreements.”

The leader of Renew Europe, Dacian Cioloș, said, “I welcome that an agreement has today been reached. The agreement will certainly contribute to mitigate the damage of Brexit and provide certainty for European citizens and businesses.”

“I am confident that the agreement will also contribute to building a balanced and solid relation between the EU and UK in the coming years. The EU and the UK need to remain close friends and partners to the benefit of both European and British citizens.”

He said, “The members of Renew Europe will democratically scrutinise the text of the agreement as soon as possible, bearing in mind the interest of European citizens.”

His colleague, French member Nathalie Loiseau,  a member of the UKCG and chair of Parliament’s Subcommittee on Security and Defence, said, “As much as we know that there is no good Brexit, it was important that all efforts were made until the very last minute in order to protect the interests of European citizens and businesses and to preserve a strong relationship with the UK in the future.”

“Parliament regrets that the duration of the negotiations and the last-minute nature of the agreement does not allow for proper parliamentary scrutiny before the end of the year” David Sassoli, European Parliament President

“I want to express my deepest gratitude to Michel Barnier for his tireless efforts. We will take a close look at the agreed text and make sure it is fair, balanced and sustainable before we give our consent.”

“A good agreement makes no winners and no losers. A good agreement must be the victory of realism against ideology and a promise for the future instead of nostalgia for the past. I hope this will be the case.”

Her group colleague, Morten Helveg Petersen, another member of the UKCG, said, “‘We will now closely scrutinise this provisional agreement, and hopefully it delivers on all the issues that we know have been difficult. Fishing is one example. We all wish for some form of agreement, in order to avoid a No Deal, but of course it has to be the right deal.”

The ECR group, in a statement, said it welcomes the deal as it is “based on zero tariffs and zero quotas - a principle we endorsed throughout the negotiation process.”

“Now, it is time to build a close partnership and develop political cooperation with our British friends. The UK is a key strategic partner and a crucial security and foreign policy ally. We firmly believe this is the beginning of a strong, fruitful friendship.”

“Millions of workers in the financial sector, the professions, law, consultancy, higher education, tourism, or the creative arts are left stranded by this deal. The deal keeps Northern Ireland under EU control for trade and moves Gibraltar closer to Madrid” Denis MacShane, former UK Europe Minister

From the business world, BusinessEurope president Pierre Gattaz said both sides should do the necessary to allow the deal to be applied as of 1 January 2021.

He said, “This agreement has been difficult to achieve but it is very welcome by business. It brings legal certainty and mitigates the impact of the end of the transition period. This is particularly important in a time when companies are struggling with the pressing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“Negotiators have worked hard to deliver a deal. Since there is little time available, both sides must work to ensure the new framework that will govern EU-UK relations is applied as of the 1 January 2021.”

More reaction came from Christa Schweng, President of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), who said the deal is “vitally important to the people of both the UK and all of Europe.”

“Now the EESC is ready to build all possible linkages with civil society in UK. It is first of all a great relief that in the end, after a long and complex negotiation, the EU and the UK government managed, in the very last stretch, to secure a deal on the partnership agreement.”

“Boris Johnson - once an unreliable anti-Brussels journalist, whom I knew and did not trust - has narrowly avoided a disastrous no-deal Brexit. But we should be under no illusion. This is a bad deal for Britain” Edward McMillan-Scott, former UK MEP and European Parliament Vice-President

“After the UK’s decision to leave the EU on 31 January 2020, after 47 years of EU membership, it was absolutely vital to know how the future relations would have been governed between the two partners. The partnership agreement will be the cornerstone on which future relations between the EU and UK will be built.”

Former UK Labour MEP Richard Corbett told The Parliament Magazine, “This is the first trade deal in modern times that reduces access to each other’s markets, destroys jobs in the productive economy (instead creating red-tape and bureaucracy jobs), and removes myriad practical arrangements of benefit to citizens. It bears no resemblance to what was promised.”

Former UK MEP and Parliament Vice-President, Edward McMillan-Scott, also told this site, “Boris Johnson - once an unreliable anti-Brussels journalist, whom I knew and did not trust - has narrowly avoided a disastrous no-deal Brexit. But we should be under no illusion. This is a bad deal for Britain.”

The former Tory member, now patron of the European Movement UK added, “For the first time in history, a trade deal has been agreed that imposes new barriers to trade between nations. It makes life harder for businesses and inflicts endless red tape on British industry. This deal fails us all and will affect us all; our jobs, our health service, the food on our plate.”

“They said they had an ‘oven-ready’ Brexit. But this government has needlessly wasted the transition period pursuing bullish strongarm tactics. The result is a sub-standard deal and no time to prepare for the chaos and red tape in store. This deal sacrifices hard-working people’s jobs and British-run businesses when we already face financial crisis. It puts added pressure on the NHS in the middle of a global pandemic.”

“This marks a nadir in our relationship with Europe. A closer relationship with the EU is possible. The job of building back our special relationship with Europe starts now, brick by brick. Once the reality of Brexit bites, the European Movement has the money, the people and the will to campaign to rejoin the European mainstream.”

Denis MacShane, former UK Europe Minister, told this site, “Michel Barnier has done well to get Boris Johnson to accept most of the deal Theresa May turned down three years ago. The UK remains aligned to EU norms and rules even if it is not a Treaty member.”

“It is the thinnest and the hardest of any possible deals. It covers trade in 19th century era goods and food. But overall there will be less, not more, trade between the EU and the UK.”

The ex-Labour MP, said, “It is better than a No Deal and covers about 20 percent of the UK economy in which the EU runs a big surplus, so none of the EU27 will object to its provisions. It does nothing for the 21st century immaterial economy. Millions of workers in the financial sector, the professions, law, consultancy, higher education, tourism, or the creative arts are left stranded by this deal. The deal keeps Northern Ireland under EU control for trade and moves Gibraltar closer to Madrid.”

“It is very sad that Mr Johnson has shut down the Erasmus scheme. Some 50,000 British students go to Spain along with Erasmus. This will damage the links between British universities and Europe.”

Former German Socialist MEP Jo Leinen told this site, “It is not a really good perspective for a friendly neighbourhood. The deal is better than no deal. But Brexit is a poisoned Christmas gift for both sides with clear disadvantages and a lot of ugly conflicts in the coming years to come.”

Irish MEP Barry Andrews told this site, “It is a mixture of sadness and relief. On the positive side Michel Barnier and his team have been determined and we saw the EU fully unified behind the negotiating mandate. I look forward to examining the detail in the weeks ahead with colleagues on the Trade Committee.”

Former UK Liberal MEP and leader of the Alde group Sir Graham Watson told The Parliament Magazine, “A deal is better than no deal. But 2014-20 in the UK may yet be seen to be as damaging as 1917-23 in Russia. Brexit on these terms means job losses, investment cuts & higher taxes. It limits opportunities for most citizens & boosts opportunities for crime. Nothing to celebrate.”

Pat Cox, former President of Parliament and ex-Liberal MEP, told this site, “Better late than never so it's welcome, but costly form-filling customs bureaucracy awaits - a retrograde consequence for all trade between the EU and the UK because of Britain's Brexit choice.”

Another former UK MEP, Andrew Duff, told this site, “The new treaty regulates British access to the EU’s single market and waters, and vice versa. A tariff war is avoided but trade will be far from ‘frictionless’ or ‘unfettered’. It makes everyone poorer. It will not endure for long.”

Roger Casale, former UK Labour MP and founder of New Europeans, a campaign group, said, “A bad trade deal is arguably better than no deal at all but it will not fundamentally mitigate the negative consequences of Britain’s decision to leave the EU. One casualty of the deal will be the end of free movement between the EU and the UK, a key component of what the EU refers to as 'the integrity of the Single Market.'"

“Tins of tomatoes and bags of potatoes will be able to move freely between the EU and the UK, but that will no longer be the case for people. British citizens will have to ask permission before they can live, work, love, study or retire in an EU Member State."

"From 1 January, EU citizens will also lose their rights to live, work and study in the UK. Students will no longer have the chance to be part of the Erasmus programme, which allowed EU students to study in the UK or EU citizens to study in Britain. The EU is not just a union of states and markets, it is also a union of people. Current research shows that a majority of British people are now opposed to the UK leaving the EU.”

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