Parliament’s trade and foreign affairs committees gear up for Brexit trade deal vote

While the plenary vote on the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) has been delayed, the two committees will have their say this afternoon.
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By Lorna Hutchinson

Lorna Hutchinson is Deputy Editor of The Parliament Magazine

15 Apr 2021

At Thursday’s extraordinary meeting, MEPs on the foreign affairs (AFET) and trade (INTA) committees will decide whether to recommend that Parliament give its consent to the agreement currently in provisional application until 30 April. Voting on the TCA will close at 3pm CET.

AFET chair David McAllister tweeted on Thursday that after “100 days of intense parliamentary scrutiny work” the two committees will vote on the consent for the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, adding, “It is the second last step in the parliamentary ratification process.”

The final step will see the TCA brought before the plenary for a definitive yes or no vote.

He said, “The UK government lags behind in implementing the Withdrawal Agreement and the so important Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland. Current challenges need to be solved within the agreed framework based on mutual trust.”

“By voting in favour of this agreement, I count on constructive engagement to find practical solutions that serve the people and stabilise the situation in Northern Ireland. It is good that Maroš Šefčovič and Lord David Frost are meeting today to continue the negotiations.”

“It is time for the UK to show responsibility and work hand in hand with the EU to calm tensions. The Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland safeguards the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement in all its dimensions. Protecting peace and stability on the island of Ireland is the EU's absolute priority” Seán Kelly, EPP

Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič will hold an informal meeting with UK Cabinet Office Minister David Frost in Brussels later 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.

INTA chair, S&D member Bernd Lange, tweeted, “Today's vote is not a free pass but a sign of our constructive attitude. Future approval in plenary is not a foregone conclusion.”

He added, “The UK must move on implementation of the NI Protocol and defuse current conflicts decisively. Trust is not a one-way street!”

EPP deputy Christophe Hansen, an INTA member, said that the TCA, “however imperfect, has cushioned the worst impact from the economic Brexit.”

He added, “Today is a step towards increasing legal certainty, solidifying hard-won LPF [level playing field] safeguards for EU and expanding legal tools and leverage to press for the full implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol.”

Seán Kelly, head of the EPP Group’s Irish Delegation, said that the violence of recent weeks in Northern Ireland was “totally unacceptable.”

“It is absolutely fundamental that Parliament’s prerogatives in supervising the implementation of the new agreement are maintained, also beyond the ratification. We will continue to keep a very close eye on it”

Christophe Hansen, EPP

He said, “It is time for the UK to show responsibility and work hand in hand with the EU to calm tensions. The Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland safeguards the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement in all its dimensions. Protecting peace and stability on the island of Ireland is the EU's absolute priority.”

“Existing structures in the agreement should be utilised to ensure the Protocol functions in a way that works for everyone, north and south of the island of Ireland as well as for the EU”, he added.

Hansen said that Parliament’s vote “marks the end of one process and the opening of another chapter,” adding, “It is absolutely fundamental that Parliament’s prerogatives in supervising the implementation of the new agreement are maintained, also beyond the ratification.”

“We will continue to keep a very close eye on it and will not hesitate to ask the European Commission to take action if we see any evidence of the provisions of the agreements not being honoured.”

German Greens/EFA MEP Anna Cavazzini, who is a member of INTA as well as chair of the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee, tweeted that her group was planning to vote in favour of the TCA.

She said, “For workers, business and students, I would have liked to see closer relations with the UK – but that was not possible with [Boris] Johnson's government.”

“I welcome the anchoring of climate targets and enforceable environmental and social standards, which Greens/EFA fights for in all trade agreements. That must be the blueprint from now on. Still, the full implementation of the NI protocol remains an absolute priority,” she added.

Irish Renew Europe deputy Barry Andrews, a member of the INTA committee, said that casting his ballot on Thursday was “another sad milestone” as the committees take the first step towards the ratification of the Brexit agreement.

“The vote of the full European Parliament is expected in two weeks,” he said, adding that there were “definite signs of progress on the good faith implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement.”

“We must continue the dialogue and build connective tissue. Strengthening links between Belfast and Brussels must be a priority to make the Protocol work for all communities in Northern Ireland,” he said.

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