MEPs call on UK to provide clarity ahead of Brexit vote

MEPs on Tuesday debated guidelines on the framework of future EU-UK relations, which takes the form of a 19-page resolution which members are expected to back in a vote later this week.

Brexit | Photo credit: Press Association

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

13 Mar 2018

The resolution, backed by the main groups, says that an association agreement with the UK - including a free trade deal - is the most likely outcome of the Brexit talks.

Speaking in plenary, EPP group Brexit spokesperson Elmar Brok said, “Brexit is bad for all of us. The negotiations are now about limiting the damage.

“In a number of speeches, UK Prime Minister Theresa May has reaffirmed her government’s position that the United Kingdom wishes to leave both the single market and the customs union. But she has not yet set out a consistent view of future EU-UK relations. A speech is not a legal text. Therefore, we are left with negotiating a trade agreement with a third country.”


His group colleague Danuta Hübner, Chair of Parliament’s constitutional affairs committee, said, “It should be clear that the UK withdrawal is not a one-off event. It is a lengthy process with far reaching consequences for many people, but remember that Parliament must provide consent at the end of this process. The clock has not stopped ticking so there is still time for the UK to rethink its red lines.”

UK S&D group member Richard Corbett said the resolution, which insists on Parliament’s red lines being met “should not come as a surprise to UK government.”

He said, “The biggest ambiguity in its position is that you think you can have frictionless trade with the EU while also leaving the single market and the customs union.

“All of us are waiting with baited breath to hear what the UK government has to say about resolving the Northern Ireland border issue.”

Corbett added, “I fear that these talks will end in deadlock as long as we continue as a divided government which disagrees on these issues.”

German ECR group MEP Hans-Olaf Henkel told his colleagues, “Brexit is a lose-lose situation but no one in this Parliament is trying to stop it.

“My message to Jean-Claude Juncker is it is time to make the UK a new offer, one which it cannot refuse and always wanted. In other words, give it more autonomy over immigration and keep them in the EU.”

The Greens/EFA group used the debate to call on UK Prime Minister Theresa May to “resolve the contradictions in her position.”

UK Greens member Molly Scott Cato said, “What makes me really sad is that it is being left to the EU side to protect citizens rights. My government has done little to protect their interests. This is the epitome of bad government.”

Italian GUE/NGL group member Barbara Spinelli cautioned, “The Brexit discussions will not work unless the UK government offers something on citizens’ rights. Citizens need to be taken out of the state of anxiety in which they are currently living.”

Speaking later at a news conference in Parliament, EPP group leader Manfred Weber said the talks were currently stalled “because the UK is not saying what it wants. There are a lot of red lines but no progress is being made.

“It is looking more likely that we will end up with a bad result, bad for both for the EU and the UK.”

He expects Parliament to adopt the resolution which amounts to “a constructive message.”

He said, “A lot of people are presenting problems but we are suggesting solutions and are ready for serious talks because we are running out of time.”

However, Weber warned the UK, “You cannot have the same status if you are out as you would have as a member of the EU. I cannot imagine voting for a treaty which has resolved issues over money, citizens’ rights and Ireland but still has no idea of the long-term relationship. That is why we still need clarification.”


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