Parliament delays Brexit trade deal ratification; MEP says ‘cool heads must prevail’

Members of the committees on trade and foreign affairs will vote on the deal on Thursday, but the vote in plenary will take place at a later, thus far undefined, date.
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By Lorna Hutchinson

Lorna Hutchinson is Deputy Editor of The Parliament Magazine

14 Apr 2021

The European Parliament has delayed the plenary vote on the Brexit trade deal with the UK due to concerns over whether the Withdrawal Agreement is being fully implemented.

EPP deputy Christophe Hansen, member of Parliament’s International Trade Committee (INTA) tweeted on Tuesday that INTA as well as the foreign affairs committee (AFET) will vote this week on the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA).

He said, however, that the vote in plenary had been “deferred due to need for progress on roadmap for pragmatic yet full implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement.”

“Cool heads must prevail, pacta sunt servanda,” he added.

A Parliament statement said that the INTA and AFET committees will vote on whether to give their consent to the TCA on Thursday from 1-1.30pm CET.

“At the extraordinary meeting, MEPs on the foreign affairs and trade committees will decide whether to recommend that Parliament give its consent to the agreement currently in provisional application until 30 April,” the statement said.

“The full House is to take the final decision, as well as adopt a separate resolution, at a future plenary session. The Parliament’s Conference of Presidents has decided not to set a plenary date yet, in order to emphasise the need for the UK side to fully implement the Withdrawal Agreement before doing so.”

“The Parliament’s Conference of Presidents has decided not to set a plenary date yet, in order to emphasise the need for the UK side to fully implement the Withdrawal Agreement before doing so” European Parliament statement

German Greens/EFA deputy Anna Cavazzini, a member of the INTA Committee and chair of the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee, tweeted on Wednesday, “MEPs learned last night that we will vote in INTA and AFET tomorrow on the EU-UK Trade & Cooperation agreement. Quite some hasty procedure all of a sudden.”

To which fellow German Greens member and AFET substitute Katrin Langensiepen tweeted in reply, “they want to test us, [to see] how flexible we are.”

Cavazzini said in a separate tweet, “The vote in plenary is still up in the air, because of the UK delaying the implementation of the Northern Ireland protocol.”

In mid-March the European Commission sent a letter of formal notice to the UK for breaching the substantive provisions of the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland, as well as the good faith obligation under the Withdrawal Agreement.

This was triggered by the UK Government stating its intention earlier in the month to unilaterally delay the full application of the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland concerning the movement of goods and pet travel from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

The Commission said that the UK had resorted to this unilateral action without any discussion or consultation with the EU side in the bodies established by the Withdrawal Agreement, adding that the move constituted “a clear departure from the constructive approach that had prevailed up until this point.”

“Decision on vote in plenary [has been] deferred due to need for progress on roadmap for pragmatic yet full implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement - cool heads must prevail, pacta sunt servanda” Christophe Hansen, EPP

At the time, Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič said that the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland was the only way to protect the Good Friday Agreement and to preserve peace and stability, while avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland and maintaining the integrity of the EU single market.

He said, “The EU and the UK agreed the Protocol together. We are also bound to implement it together. Unilateral decisions and international law violations by the UK defeat its very purpose and undermine trust between us. The UK must properly implement it if we are to achieve our objectives.”

In mid-March, the UK was given one month to submit its observations to the letter of formal notice.

On Wednesday, Commission spokesman Daniel Ferrie tweeted that Šefčovič will have an informal meeting with UK Cabinet Office Minister David Frost in Brussels on Thursday “to take stock of ongoing technical work on the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland and to provide a political steer for both teams on outstanding issues.”

Anna Cavazzini said in a tweet that she would be watching the outcome of the meeting closely, adding, “The peace in Ireland is fragile, and the full implementation of the Northern Ireland protocol more important than ever. Customs checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK are unfortunate but very important.”

“This is how we will be able to ensure that European standards are respected when food and goods enter the Single Market via Northern Ireland.”

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