Members of the European Parliament will begin late scrutiny of the post-Brexit trade deal on Monday, after negotiators from the EU and the UK finally reached a deal on Christmas Eve.
Delays in finalizing the deal have left MEPs unable to approve the deal before it goes into effect on January 1. The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, will launch a round of national and partisan consultations with MEPs.
MEPs from all factions are angry that they will not be able to fully analyze the deal in advance, but the chances of them rejecting it are low because the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has kept them fully informed during the talks.
Some MEPs, however, feel that the sovereignty of parliament has been systematically undermined by Boris Johnson’s negotiating tactics or by the commission’s disregard for the right of MEPs to ratify treaties.
Some German Green MPs have demanded greater scrutiny and clear sanctions if the UK breaks the rules, pointing to the plethora of joint committees and task forces that will now be established between the UK and the EU.
MEPs have also asked for more details on how Brussels will be able to ensure that a UK government led by conservatives does not use its new freedoms to diverge from key social and environmental standards in the coming years.
There are no provisions in the deal to prevent the UK from shifting to a lower tax economy, although, in practice, deficits increasing as a result of the coronavirus pandemic are likely to lead to tax increases in the coming years. .
Many MEPs are also concerned about the implications of Brexit for the continued unity of the UK. Some insist that the European Parliament should make it clear that it would welcome an independent Scotland joining the EU, a stance that would cause concern in Spain in the face of a separatist Catalonia.
The president of the European parliament, David Sassoli, welcomed the deal on Christmas Eve and hinted that most of its red lines had been preserved.
“Parliament is now ready to react responsibly to minimize disruption to citizens and businesses,” he said. “Parliament will continue its work in the responsible committees and in plenary before deciding whether to give its consent in the new year.”
Udo Bullmann, a German Socialist member of the parliament’s trade committee, said MEPs “would put the deal to the test over the next few weeks and then decide its value. The rules on competitive conditions and market access will be examined in particular so that no new loopholes arise for dumping practices and proven EU rules ”.
David McAllister, the parliament’s Brexit commissioner, said in an interview with Die Welt that the deal “would have far-reaching consequences for individuals, businesses and public administrations. Trade between the EU and the UK will no longer work as well as when we jointly tackle the internal market and the customs union. “
Iratxe García, leader of the socialist group in parliament, stressed that the agreement cannot set a precedent for the way the commission consults parliament on future trade deals. “This is a unique situation and there has been and never will be an agreement like this, neither in nature nor in procedure,” he said.
Pedro Silva Pereira, socialist representative in the Brexit coordination group, said: “We will now analyze the final result of the negotiations but, having had regular contact with the EU negotiating team, we believe that this agreement deserves our full support as it ensures a new relationship based on fair trade and high standards, avoiding social, environmental and regulatory dumping, and protecting our fishing communities ”.
He is one of many MEPs who hopes the UK will see the purpose of cooperating on a common foreign policy, something that is not covered by the trade deal.
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