UK mulls ‘override’ of key sections of Brexit Withdrawal Agreement ahead of new round of trade deal talks with EU

Threat comes as MEPs warn UK that European Parliament ‘will not rubberstamp’ any new deal.
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07 Sep 2020

EPP MEP Christophe Hansen has warned that the European Parliament “will not just rubberstamp any (Brexit) deal.”

Hansen, a member of the European Parliament’s UK Coordination Group which monitors the Brexit negotiations between the UK and EU two sides, was speaking just ahead of the crunch eighth round of negotiations on a post-Brexit agreement.

The next round of Brexit talks, seen as the most significant yet between the UK and EU because of the October deadline set by the EU, begins on Tuesday in London.

Hansen’s warning comes as it emerged on Monday that the British government is planning legislation that will revoke key parts of the Brexit withdrawal agreement, risking the collapse of trade negotiations with Brussels.

According to UK press reports the UK is ready to “override” the Withdrawal Agreement that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson signed just eight months ago.

It is reported that the UK’s Internal Market Bill, due to be published this Wednesday, will “eliminate the legal force of parts of the Withdrawal Agreement” on state aid and Northern Ireland customs

Johnson, in a statement, warned, “There needs to be an agreement with our European friends by the time of the European Council on 15 October if [if an agreement] is going to be in force by the end of the year … If we can’t agree by then, then I do not see that there will be a free-trade agreement between us, and we should both accept that and move on.”

If current obstacles around fisheries and state aid cannot be resolved and a deal agreed, Johnson said the UK would have a trading relationship with the EU like Australia’s, which would be “a good outcome”.

With a fresh attempt now being made to break the deadlock, Hansen, the European Parliament's trade committee negotiator, expressed fresh concern over the timescale for reaching a deal.

He said, “Parliament needs sufficient time to fulfil its constitutional duty of scrutiny of trade deals. This means that we must receive a text in early November at the latest.”

“Let me be clear: we will not just rubberstamp any deal. Last June, the Parliament massively backed a detailed resolution expressing our unwavering support for a comprehensive agreement. The UK government mustn't think that ratification will be the same walk in the park as it was in the House of Commons. The European Parliament needs sufficient time to scrutinise the deal " EPP MEP Christophe Hansen

“Let me be clear: we will not just rubberstamp any deal. Last June, the Parliament massively backed a detailed resolution expressing our unwavering support for a comprehensive agreement. The UK government mustn't think that ratification will be the same walk in the park as it was in the House of Commons. The European Parliament needs sufficient time to scrutinise the deal. "

Hansen said the end of the transition was “drawing inexorably closer” but progress “is still not forthcoming”. This was cause for "alarm", he said.

Speaking to this site, Dutch Socialist deputy Kati Piri agreed with Hansen and said, “The next round of Brexit negotiations are about to start but time is running out for any comprehensive agreement.”

Piri, also a member of the Parliament’s UK Coordination Group, added, “The 31st October is a hard deadline for the Parliament in order to have democratic scrutiny of a possible deal before the transition period comes to an end. “

Further comment came from former UK Socialist MEP Richard Corbett, who told The Parliament Magazine, "The blame for the deadlock lies fully on the side of the UK government, which is reneging on what it agreed in the Brexit deal approved by both parliaments in January, and is reneging on what it promised the British people about the consequences of Brexit."

The UK officially left the EU on January 31 but talks have so far made little progress on agreeing a new trade deal for when the current transition arrangement ends on 31 December.

Other issues yet to be dealt with include state aid and those relating to the border between EU-member Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK.

At the weekend, in an interview with the UK’s Mail on Sunday, David Frost, Britain’s chief Brexit negotiator, warned, “We came in after a government and negotiating team that had blinked and had its bluff called at critical moments and the EU had learned not to take our word seriously. So a lot of what we are trying to do this year is to get them to realise that we mean what we say and they should take our position seriously.”

Britain says the EU is dragging its feet in talks but the EU’s Michel Barnier, its chief Brexit negotiator, told French media on Monday that Britain wanted “the best of two worlds” in the divorce deal, adding that negotiations were "difficult."

Meanwhile, reports in the British press that Barnier was about to be sidelined by EU leaders in a bid to break the deadlock in the trade talks have been denied by French European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune.

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