- Vincent Kessler/Reuters
- European Parliament votes to say there has been insufficient progress in Brexit negotiations. MEPs say the decision on whether talks should progress should be delayed unless there is a “major breakthrough.” The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier says: “unity of the EU27 is much more important than Brexit.” Barnier says the EU is “prepared to speed up and intensify negotiations.”
LONDON – The European Parliament has voted to say that Brexit talks should not move on to the next stage as there has been no “sufficient progress.”
MEPs on Tuesday morning backed a motion by 557 votes to 92 that said negotiations should not be allowed to progress to the future relationship between the UK and the European Union unless there is a “major breakthrough.”
The motion says the UK’s approach to the discussing financial issues has “seriously impeded” the talks so far and the European Council should delay its decision on whether there has been “sufficient progress.”
The European Council of the 27 EU member states will decide later this month whether to give a mandate for further negotiations if “sufficient progress” has been made on citizens’ rights, Northern Irish border and the financial settlement.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told the plenary session: “We cannot talk about the future without any real clarity. The prime minister’s speech in Florence was conciliatory, but speeches are not negotiation positions.”
The Parliament does not have an active role in negotiations and its vote today is not binding. However, it does make it very clear that the EU’s only directly-elected body is unsatisfied with the talks so far, and will be a blow to Prime Minister Theresa May following her key Brexit speech in Florence, which was an attempt to break the deadlock.
The Parliament will vote to either approve or reject the final deal agreed between the EU and the UK at the end of Article 50 negotiations in 2019.
The motion was proposed by the parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt, who said: “There is a lack of clarity, there is even disunity [in the British government]. There are oppositions between [Philip] Hammond and [Liam] Fox. There are divisions between [Boris] Johnson and May.
“It is difficult to make sufficient progress. It is difficult to make the steps towards the second phase of the negotiations.”
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier told MEPs: “We have not yet achieved sufficient progress to undertake in full confidence the second phase of negotiations.”
Barnier added that there was still “serious divergence” over the financial settlement, making it clear that taxpayers of the remaining 27 EU countries should not have to pay more to facilitate Brexit.
He said: “We will never accept for the 27 to pay what was decided on by 28, it’s as simple as that. The taxpayers of the 27 don’t have to pay for the consequences of the decision that they didn’t take. So, no more, no less.”
Following the fourth round of Brexit talks last week, Barnier said it could be “weeks or even months” before negotiations progressed to discussions of a future relationship.
The chief negotiator inisted that he was not seeking “revenge” or “punishment” for Brexit in talks, and that he had a “great admiration” for the UK.
Barnier also said “we are prepared to speed up and intensify negotiations,” which puts pressure on the government to push talks forward.
Manfred Weber MEP, the chair of the European People’s Party Group said: “Theresa May please don’t put your party first. Put Britain first. Please sack Johnson because we need a clear answer for what is the British position.”
Johnson, the foreign secretary, has come under fire following a series of interventions calling for a hard Brexit and a clean split from the EU, apparently going against government policy.
The prime minister will make her key speech to the Conservative Party conference in Manchester on Wednesday. Verhofstadt said he hoped May would use the speech to provide more “clarity” on the government’s plans for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.