If the new Withdrawal Agreement is ratified this week by UK MPs in the House of Commons – and the UK government is now said to command sufficient support for this - the European Parliament will then be asked to give its own consent on Thursday in Strasbourg, paving the way for the UK to still leave the EU on October 31.
MEPs musts sign off on any Brexit deal before it can be enacted.
Many MEPs, though, have cast doubt on whether the European parliament will have enough time to fully digest all the “complex” details in the exhaustive, 600-page draft agreement in time for a vote to take place. It has also been argued that, in any case, MEPs should have a full debate on the text, as well as just a vote.
According to a draft European Parliament programme for this week, MEPs will “take stock” of the outcome of last week’s two-day summit of EU heads of state or government in a plenary debate with council president Donald Tusk and Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Tuesday.
But German MEP Helmut Scholz suggests the EU should consider granting an extension to the UK to allow more time for both a vote and further debate on the issue.
He said, “The process of finalising this agreement has excluded citizens and is largely excluding their elected representatives.
"In order to avoid being presented with a fait accompli, the EU should express its willingness to extend the Article 50 period to ensure that the agreement is genuinely in the interest of citizens in Britain and across the EU" Helmut Scholz MEP
“In order to avoid being presented with a fait accompli, the EU should express its willingness to extend the Article 50 period to ensure that the agreement is genuinely in the interest of citizens in Britain and across the EU,” he said.
On Monday, the European commission confirmed it is considering a request from the UK, albeit made in unconventional ways by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, for an extension.
On the question of a possible extension Brexit party leader Nigel Farage predicts, “There is going to be an extension, but this is another failure by the political class to get us out of the EU.”
Martin Schirdewan, co-leader of the European Parliament’s left-wing GUE/NGL group and a member of the Parliament’s influential Brexit Steering Group, added, “Having seen the draft agreement, I still have concerns about Brexit’s impact upon the Irish peace process and citizens’ rights.”
"There is going to be an extension but this is another failure by the political class to get us out of the EU" Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage MEP
He went on, “I also have doubts as to whether this will undermine the Good Friday Agreement in the near future, and many of our citizens - both in the EU and in Britain - will continue to worry about their immediate and long-term futures.”
He added, “The question remains as to whether this will be acceptable to the British parliament and, personally, I have doubts about that.”
His Irish Sinn Féin colleague Martina Anderson added, "The people in the North of Ireland didn’t consent to Brexit. There is no good Brexit for the island of Ireland.”
“The proposal is complex and convoluted, but it is better than crashing out without an agreement. At least it avoids a hardening of the border in Ireland and it removes the Stormont veto proposed by the British government.”