S&D leader warns it will soon be ‘virtually impossible’ for Parliament to debate and vote on any Brexit deal

Iratxe García Pérez was speaking as Brexit talks continue in Brussels and with the 31 December deadline for the end of the transition period looming on the horizon.
European Parliament Audiovisual

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

16 Dec 2020

García Pérez told reporters, “There have been lots of different interpretations on the current talks in the last few days, but it is clear that a No Deal is the worst-case scenario – that would be bad news for the EU, for the UK and for all our citizens.”

Senior officials have been silent so far on how the European and British parliaments can comply with their responsibility to scrutinise and ratify - or reject - any agreement on a new trading relationship.

Speaking on Tuesday, she said, “But time is running short and this is a concern.”

She stressed the importance of Parliament in “asserting our role and responsibility in scrutinising the content of a deal. We must be able to do this and to set out our position.”

The Spanish MEP warned, though, “It is very difficult to see how this can be done.”

“It can still be achieved if there is a conclusion to the negotiations by the end of this week. I hope this could be done but we, Parliament, must have immediate access to all information about any final agreement.”

“One of our red lines is the Withdrawal Agreement. It is a pre-condition to us agreeing any deal that it is implemented in full”

Martin Schirdewan, GUE/NGL co-chair

“This will be difficult and if we get to the end of this week with no deal it would be virtually impossible for this Parliament to do its work and we must then look at the legal alternatives for a manageable situation on 1 January.”

She said Parliament would not approve of any “provisional measures” unless it is given the chance “to take a view on this.”

“What should happen is that the Parliament must have a vote on any contingency measures such as in fisheries.”

“The EU will still push for a final agreement and there is some leeway this week but if this is not possible we must look at the alternatives.”

Commenting at a separate press conference, GUE/NGL co-chair Martin Schirdewan, who is also a member of Parliament’s UK Coordination Group (UKCG), also underlined the importance of Parliament being allowed to look “in detail” at any deal, adding, “If that needs an extraordinary plenary over the festive period then so be it.”

He said, “One of our red lines is the Withdrawal Agreement. It is a pre-condition to us agreeing any deal that it is implemented in full. The UK, of late, has been hesitant on this though.”

“If we get to the end of this week with no deal it would be virtually impossible for this Parliament to do its work and we must then look at the legal alternatives for a manageable situation on 1 January” Iratxe García Pérez, S&D Group leader

“Our second red line in agreeing a deal is that is does not lead to dumping in terms of social, employment, consumer rights.”

Some members are angry that they may be asked to rubber-stamp a deal at the last minute, in order to avoid the chaos of a No Deal scenario on January 1.

They include Bernd Lange, a German MEP who is chairman of the International Trade Committee and also a UKCG member, who described that as “irresponsible.”

Meanwhile, Member States on Wednesday approved contingency plans in the event of a No Deal.

A Council statement said this will “make it possible that EU and UK fishing vessels continue to have access to each other’s waters as of 1 January.”

The regulation creates a legal framework for EU and UK fishermen to be granted authorisation to continue fishing in UK and EU waters respectively after the end of the Brexit transition period (31 December).

“As a contingency measure, in the case of a No Deal, these authorisations could apply as of 1 January 2021 until 31 December 2021,” said the statement.

The move, it adds, is to “contribute to the economic stability and livelihood of fishing communities and to the continuation of sustainable fishing until a permanent EU-UK agreement.”

The “fast-tracked” proposal will now be voted by the European Parliament later this week. The UK must also agree to the contingency plan.

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