Verhofstadt: UK red lines will determine what type of relationship Britain and the EU will have after Brexit

Parliament’s Brexit representative Guy Verhofstadt has said the final agreement will depend entirely on Britain’s so-called red lines.

Guy Verhofstadt has said the final agreement will depend entirely on Britain’s so-called red lines | Photo credit: Press Association

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

23 Jan 2018

Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday, the Belgian MEP said, “At the end of the day it is the UK red lines that will determine what type of relationship Britain and the EU will have after Brexit.”

He was updating the constitutional affairs committee on the Brexit talks and predicted that the next phase, due to start soon, will be “more intense and more difficult” than the first, which was concluded just before Christmas.

Parliament’s ALDE group leader was asked about judicial oversight and, in particular, the role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in the Brexit talks.


He told the committee, “Judicial oversight will continue to be with the ECJ until such time that the UK leaves the EU but, after that happens, something else will be needed although, at this stage, I cannot say what that will be.”

He cited the example of a “Ukraine-style” association agreement with the UK but warned even this would be impossible as it would mean the UK still adhering to ECJ rulings.

He also moved again to reaffirm Parliament’s determination to ensure that the current rights enjoyed by the estimated 1.5 million Britons in the EU are fully respected after Brexit.

He said, “From day one, we have said that we will defend their rights and this position will continue to the very end. In fact, for us this is something that could already be agreed.”

He was responding to a question from Barbara Spinelli, a GUE/NGL group member, who had voiced concern that the rights of Britons on the continent was being overlooked in the debate about the rights of EU citizens in the UK.

She said, “A lot of uncertainty still prevails on this issue and it needs to be sorted out as soon as possible. We need to ensure that in these talks the rights of citizens will remain unchanged, as was promised at the very outset.”

Diane James, an independent member, also asked Verhofstadt to clarify the current situation after the media reported that some members of the Brexit steering group had said the UK is heading for EU membership in “all but name” during a transition period.

She said this directly contradicted what he had told the committee and added, “We seem to have a situation where key people involved in this process are all saying different things.”

In comments which could raise concerns among Tory Brexiteers, members of the European Parliament’s Brexit steering group said UK Prime Minister Theresa May must strike a deal that resembles the Scandinavian country’s single market membership to get the implementation period she desires.

On Monday, Belgian MEP Philippe Lamberts told The Independent, “During the transition period, the UK will be a member in all but name, but it will no longer sit at the two tables where decisions are made; parliament and council.

“It has to be a Norwegian-style deal, it cannot be anything else and this has been agreed in principle.”

He added, “I heard no one disputing this from the UK’s side. This is the position of all three EU institutions.”

A deal based on Norway’s membership of the European Economic Area (EEA) would entail continued free movement of people and payments to Brussels.


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