UK Coordination Group deputy issues blunt warning as next round of Brexit talks kicks off

Christophe Hansen, who is also Parliament's trade committee negotiator, declared, “it is time for the UK to restore confidence to advance in the negotiations.”

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

28 Sep 2020

Hansen was speaking with the ninth round of talks set to start later on Monday and lasting until 2 October. They will take place in Brussels and are due to be the final round of a series of discussions over the summer between the EU and UK.

The UK is set to leave the current transition period on 31 December but there appears to be little prospect of a trade deal being agreed in time for the October deadline set by the EU.

Hansen, an EPP member from Luxembourg, said on Monday, “We expect Boris Johnson [the UK PM] to withdraw the international law-breaching provisions of the Internal Market Bill.”

He emphasised, “The European Parliament will, under no circumstances, ratify any agreement between the EU and the UK should the UK authorities breach - or threaten to breach - the Withdrawal Agreement.”

This is a reference to the new UK legislation - the Internal Market Bill - which overrides the Withdrawal Agreement. The UK has refused to give in to the EU’s demand that the legislation is withdrawn.

State aid, fisheries and the Irish border issue are among the issues still to be resolved.

“The European Parliament will, under no circumstances, ratify any agreement between the EU and the UK should the UK authorities breach - or threaten to breach - the Withdrawal Agreement” Christophe Hansen MEP

Ahead of the formal talks UK cabinet office minister Michael Gove will meet European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič on Monday afternoon to discuss implementation of the Brexit divorce deal.

Šefčovič said recently that if the bill were to be adopted, it would constitute an “extremely serious violation” of the Withdrawal Agreement and of international law.

Speaking at a press briefing, a Commission spokesman declined to be drawn on the possible necessity of a tenth round of talks, saying, “Any further rounds will be scheduled if and when they are scheduled, but we cannot comment further on that right now, or on what may or may not happen in the coming weeks.”

Asked whether Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator was optimistic or pessimistic about a deal being reached, the spokesman said, “I think Michel Barnier would answer that one as he has done in the last four years: that he is neither optimistic or pessimistic. What he is determined to do is reach a deal within the mandate given to us.”

He was also asked to comment on speculation that the UK may, given the health pandemic, ask for an extension to the transition period.

On this, he said, “In June, the UK said that it did not wish to extend the transition and, I repeat, that we are determined to strike a deal that will be in place by 1 January.”

Elsewhere, a new poll by Ipsos Mori suggests there is a lack of confidence in Britain’s global role with just under half of Britons (49 percent) believing that Britain is a force for good in the world, down 10 points from April 2019.

Meanwhile, Swiss voters on Sunday rejected a bid to cut immigration from the EU, leaving free movement in the heart of Europe intact.

The outcome was welcomed by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who said, “We see it as a positive signal to continue to consolidate and deepen our relationship. About 1.4 million EU citizens live in Switzerland and 450,000 Swiss live in the EU.”

“Another 320,000 EU citizens cross the border daily to work in Switzerland. The citizens of Switzerland have shown today that they value these ties.”

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