Parliament’s group leaders ready for extraordinary plenary if Brexit deal reached by Sunday

After meeting with EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier on Thursday, the Conference of Presidents said they stand ready to organise an extraordinary plenary session towards the end of December in the event that an agreement is reached by midnight on Sunday 20 December.
European Parliament Audiovisual

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

17 Dec 2020

The extraordinary plenary session would allow the European Parliament to debate the outcome of negotiations and consider granting its consent.

Socialist leader Iratxe García Pérez said after Thursday morning’s meeting with Barnier, “We will not be rushed into a consent vote of the Brexit deal before the end of the year if we don’t have access to the text by Sunday.”

García Pérez had already warned that, with just days to go before the end of the Brexit transition period, it would be “virtually impossible” for Parliament to debate and vote on any Brexit deal.

She said, “It is clear that a No Deal is the worst-case scenario - that is the worst thing we could see. That would be bad news for the EU, for the UK and for all our citizens.”

EU and UK negotiators are still embroiled in the long-running efforts to agree a trade deal.

“We will not be rushed into a consent vote of the Brexit deal before the end of the year if we don’t have access to the text by Sunday”

Iratxe García Pérez, S&D Group leader

The UK’s transition period ends on 31 December and there are fears there will be no time left for MEPs to debate and vote on any deal that is agreed. Parliament has the legal right to sign off on any deal.

Despite the looming deadline, the group leaders said that they still hope to push ahead with a vote on a potential Brexit deal before the end of the year.

They say in a statement that they take note that negotiations are ongoing with the UK on the future relationship and welcome efforts being made to avoid a no-deal scenario, “and the huge negative impact it would have on citizens and businesses.”

The MEPs say “that ratification of any agreement is dependent on the full implementation by the UK government of all provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement, including the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland.

“We therefore invite the Commission to provide Parliament with a full report on the implementation of the Protocol, in order to allow it to assess whether or not this condition has been met.”

“Expediting the consent procedure will not allow adequate time for proper democratic scrutiny of any potential deal with the UK on a future relationship” Greens/EFA Group

The Greens/EFA group poured scorn on the declaration, saying that “expediting the consent procedure will not allow adequate time for proper democratic scrutiny of any potential deal with the UK on a future relationship.”

Greens/EFA co-leader Philippe Lamberts said, “Today’s decision by a majority of group presidents to expedite the consent process of a yet-to-come EU-UK treaty deals a severe blow to the credibility of Parliament as a legislative body.”

“Indeed, it makes a joke of the scrutiny process of a treaty massive in both size and political importance, that should now be expedited in a just few days. Checks and balances and due process are essential elements of any democracy; such should be the case for the EU as the world's first venture into a transnational democracy.”

He continued, “Regardless of the likelihood of Parliament's approval, what is at stake is the seriousness of the parliamentary work. Consent to international treaties - a right Parliament gained as one of the major advances of the Lisbon treaty - should never be treated as a formality.”

“Taking a second look at such treaties is essential so that the executive branch - in this case the Commission - never takes parliamentary approval for granted. However, this is precisely the message the resolution adopted in today’s Conference of Presidents sends to the Commission and Council, and beyond to our citizens.”

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