The European parliament's handling of a resolution on the controversial TTIP trade deal has been condemned by many of the assembly's members as "embarrassing", "irresponsible" and "a missed opportunity".
Following an eleventh hour intervention by parliament's president Martin Schulz on Tuesday, this week's planned plenary vote on the trade deal was dramatically pulled.
The report has now been sent back to parliament's international trade (INTA) committee. Officially, the excuse is that it contains too many amendments, but behind the scenes the assembly's Socialist group are being blamed for this latest setback.
Parliament's centre-left MEPs had previously struck a deal with the EPP, ECR and ALDE groups not to exclude the contentious investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism in the INTA committee's report. The agreement, which was approved last month, angered the groups to the left and caused tensions within the S&D group.
Before the vote was postponed, confusion reigned, with Socialist MEPs and the group itself voicing its opposition to ISDS.
ISDS has been the most contentious issue in the TTIP talks, as some fear such a system would give companies too much power over national governments.
Following the cancellation of the vote, rapporteur Bernd Lange said, "we were ready to vote and fight for a resolution shaped according to our social democratic principles, with strong protection of workers' rights, public services and environmental standards. We will continue to talk to all political groups and try and rally support behind our position".
However EPP shadow rapporteur Godelieve Quisthoudt-Rowohl asserting that Lange had "flunked his TTIP exam" and claiming that he had "switched positions on compromise amendments he had himself proposed".
She added that the centre-right group "wants a strong trade and investment partnership with the US - when jobs and opportunity for young people and SMEs are at stake, playing to put additional sticks in the wheels is irresponsible".
ECR deputy Emma McClarkin accused Lange of having "let [MEPs] down. He decided to submit, alongside his colleagues, further amendments to exclude ISDS even before the European commission has been given the chance to reform the system."
"This led to panic on the left that they would lose the vote, and now the people of Europe, who were expecting their elected representatives to debate and vote on this issue today, have been let down".
Meanwhile, ALDE shadow rapporteur Marietje Schaake said, "the disputes within the Socialist group have sadly delayed the vote."
"After intensive negotiations, resulting in a broadly supported resolution on TTIP in the trade committee, the Social Democrats were apparently afraid to vote."
She stressed that, "the decision to postpone the vote is really a missed opportunity. It is bad for parliament's position, but also for the EU as a whole".
Yannick Jadot, who negotiated the report on behalf of the Greens, blasted parliament for being "in a panic that the vote on the TTIP resolution will reveal the clear divisions within the larger political groups."
"Schulz has pulled a fast one and used an underhand administrative procedure to postpone the vote and prevent these divisions from being put on the record".
Yet he underlined that, "the significant and mounting public pressure is bearing fruit - it is important that this pressure from the public and civil society is maintained".
Last year, an anti-TTIP petition gathered over one million signatures.
And GUE/NGL deputy Helmut Scholz called the cancellation of the vote "a decisive mistake" and "an expression of the great uncertainty within the S&D, EPP, ECR and ALDE groups. They feared that a majority would have rejected the controversial ISDS mechanism".
The German deputy said the decision to also postpone the debate in plenary was "an embarrassing signal from parliament to the public", but nevertheless warned that "the democratic debate in our societies on TTIP will continue".