MEPs: Parliamentary scrutiny of EU-UK deal must go beyond mere ratification

AFET and INTA lawmakers have to approve in due course the consent proposal as to allow for a plenary vote

Photo: EP David McAllister.

During the week, the EU-UK post-Brexit deal came under scrutiny by the European Parliament. Sectoral policies was discussed with the UK Task Force in various committees. MEPs will take the necessary time before deciding whether to give their consent. The agreement was reached on the Christmas Eve last year and since 1 January it is applied on a provisional basis.

Lawmakers of the two responsible committees – on Foreign Affairs (AFET) and International Trade (INTA), held a first joint meeting on the new EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, intensifying the parliamentary scrutiny process.

David McAllister (EPP, DE), the head of the UK Coordination Group and Chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs said that it is “a good, fair and balanced agreement”.

He underscored that the negotiations took place under unprecedented circumstances and the EP has been clear that provisional application must remain an exception. “This has to be a unique situation, and under no circumstances can this set a precedent for future trade agreements,” he asserted.

The AFET Chair specified that there are two things the Parliament has to do and the one thing is to debate and adopt a recommendation for the consent of the agreement. “We have to decide whether we want to support this agreement or not. On the other hand, the political groups will prepare a political resolution where we will in detail say, as a European Parliament, where do we find this agreement positive, also where are open questions and where are critical aspects which should try to be resolved at a later stage.”

Welcoming the agreement as a good solution, albeit thin, MEPs highlighted that a no-deal would have brought a disaster for citizens and companies on both sides.

They stressed that the parliamentary scrutiny of this deal must go beyond mere ratification, insisting on thorough access to information and a clear role for Parliament in the implementation and future monitoring of the agreement.

Furthermore, MEPs also emphasised the importance of fostering a close dialogue between the European Parliament and Westminster on future EU-UK relations.

Lawmakers from the two committees regretted that many aspects, including the Erasmus programme, foreign policy, security and defence cooperation, were not included in the negotiations on the future partnership. Concerns about the future for environmental standards, as the new UK emissions trading system has only been in place since 1 January without clarity on how to link it up with the EU one, were voiced as well.

AFET rapporteur on the deal Kati Piri (S&D, NL) commented that Parliament’s red lines will continue to be central in the scrutiny process. I welcome the fact that the EU managed to secure a single, clear governance framework, she said noting that this will allow EU and British citizens, consumers and businesses legal certainty about the applicable rules and will ensure robust compliance guarantees by the parties.

The AFET rapporteur underscored that at the same time, “it is also important to be frank: we did not want or choose Brexit”. So it is with regret and sadness that we acknowledge that this was the democratic choice of the British people. And sadly, the agreement itself falls far short of the Political Declaration that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson himself signed just months prior to the negotiations, MEP Piri added.

Christophe Hansen (EPP, LU), INTA rapporteur specified that it “is a very thin agreement”. But I welcome the fact that there are no quotas and tariffs, and with that we avoided falling back to WTO rules that would have hurt a lot of our sectors, including agriculture and cars, MEP Hansen said.

He expressed regret that the UK decided not to take part in Erasmus. This jeopardises the future for 170,000 Europeans in the UK and 100,000 UK students in the EU. Hansen also regret that future Geographical Indications are not covered, which is contrary to the Political Declaration.

“I would have liked that services were reflected somewhat broader in the agreement. Nevertheless, regulatory cooperation on financial services will be negotiated until March. It is important not to let the consent drag on forever. Provisional application is not the legal security that businesses and citizens deserve after all these years,” the INTA rapporteur urged.

AFET and INTA committees will in due course vote on the consent proposal prepared by the two standing rapporteurs to allow for a plenary vote before the end of the provisional application of the agreement.

Parliament will also vote on an accompanying resolution prepared by the political groups in the UK Coordination Group and the Conference of Presidents.

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