Parliament supports orderly Brexit, Johnson bets on timely departure

MEPs pledge to reject any Withdrawal Agreement without an Irish backstop

The Withdrawal Agreement is fair, balanced and provides legal certainty, MEPs said last Wednesday in a resolution reiterating Parliament's support for an “orderly Brexit”. With the vote, they reaffirmed EP's support for the already negotiated deal and stressed that it takes into account the UK's red lines and the EU's principles, providing a fair and balanced solution, the EP press service reported.

According to MEPs, the deal safeguards the rights and life choices of European and British citizens, provides a financial settlement mechanism for the UK's obligations, and addresses the UK's request for a transition period. In addition, it provides a necessary backstop mechanism to safeguard the status quo in Ireland by protecting the Good Friday Agreement and ensuring North-South cooperation.

In the resolution, Parliament also confirmed that they would be ready to return to the EU's original proposal for a Northern Ireland-only backstop and are also open to examining “alternative solutions” if they are legally and operationally credible and in line with EU guiding principles. MEPs, however, stressed that they will not consent to a Withdrawal Agreement without a backstop.

I would like to come back to the two key points of our current discussions with the British: the question of Ireland and Northern Ireland, and that of the future relationship, which is important since it will have to rebuild a partnership with the UK. The basic demand of Mr. Johnson's government is the removal of the backstop, or at least its replacement. It's not enough to explain to us why we should remove the backstop, we need legally-enforceable solutions in the agreement to address each problem, Michel Barnier said.

In light of recent developments in the UK, London would have to assume full responsibility for a “no- deal” exit and the serious consequences that this would entail, MEPs pointed out. Parliament also emphasised that a “no-deal” scenario would not remove the UK's obligations and commitments on financial settlements, protection of citizens' rights, and compliance with the Good Friday Agreement, which are necessary preconditions for Parliament's approval of any future relationship between the EU and the UK.

Furthermore, MEPs are open to a possible extension of the negotiation period, if requested by the UK, provided it is justified and has a specific purpose, such as avoiding a “no-deal” departure, holding general elections or a referendum, revoking Article 50, or approving the Withdrawal Agreement. They also add that an extension should not affect the work and functioning of the EU institutions.

At the same time British PM Boris Johnson claimed last Monday he would obey the law but would still take Britain out of the EU at the end of October with or without a deal. A law passed by Britain's parliament this month requires Johnson to ask the EU for a three-month delay to Brexit if a deal is not approved by 19 October, though British media reports have said that his team is looking at ways to circumvent it.

At a dinner with EC President Jean-Claude Juncker in a Luxembourg restaurant last Monday Johnson sought a way for a breakthrough in a stalled Brexit process, but once again hit the wall. He even avoided the press conference after the event in order not to be pressed to admit his failure so far. Before Parliament last Wednesday Juncker said that he has invited Johnson to make concrete, operational and written proposals on alternative ways to achieve Brexit deal.

Meanwhile Ireland reiterated that it wants a deal on an orderly British exit from the EU but Britain has so far failed to come up with a written plan. “We await written proposals from the UK side. We simply haven’t seen any written proposals to date,” Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney said.

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