Brexit: European Parliament positions itself for difficult negotiationsThe pro-European groups voted with a large majority in favour of a resolution, which outlines the key priorities and conditions of the Parliament for the upcoming Brexit negotiations. Even if Parliament itself will not be involved in the negotiations, it has to approve to the final deal in the end.
There are currently two scenarios as to how withdrawal negotiations might proceed: the United Kingdom leaves the EU without any transitional agreements and without clarification of future relations, or the UK will proceed with an “orderly” withdrawal, which means legal stability and as few restrictions as possible for both EU citizens and companies.
The European Parliament prefers the latter scenario. Yet, the resolution passed on Wednesday made also clear that certain red lines are not to be crossed. MEPs demanded fair and transparent negotiations on both sides and reminded the British government that their rights as an EU Member State would remain untouched until the official withdrawal in two years' time; however, at the same time MEPs urge the UK to fulfil remaining obligations. In particular, the financial obligations, which would still apply after Brexit, have caused discussions during the past weeks.
As an elected voice of EU citizens, the Parliament used the resolution to set clear priorities: the interests of Europeans should be at the centre of the negotiations – especially the rights of EU citizens, who currently live in the UK and of British Citizens, who are currently resident in the EU27. That being said, the EU should take note that some regions of the United Kingdom voted against Brexit. To remove uncertainties, the status of all these groups needs to be clarified right at the beginning of the negotiations. Commission President Juncker emphasised that people must not be used as bargaining chips.
Michel Barnier, chief negotiator of the EU pointed out that the sooner the EU and the United Kingdom would agree on principles of orderly withdrawal, the sooner future relation can be discussed. In doing so, the EU institutions reiterate their position that aspects such as the future access of the United Kingdom to the European Single Market and the Customs Union should only be negotiated once the terms of the withdrawal had been agreed on. The four freedoms (free movement of goods, freedom of movement for workers, right of establishment and freedom to provide services as well as free movement of capital) should be respected. “Cherry-picking” and asymmetric terms, based on which the British would get more concessions than current Member States, would not be acceptable. Manfred Weber, Chairman of the EPP Group confirmed: “A state outside the EU cannot have the same or better conditions than a state inside the EU.” The Chairman of the Social Democrat Group (S&D), Gianni Pittella, supported this demand and pointed out that Parliament would refuse its consent should the conditions set not be respected to.
It remains to be seen how the negotiations will proceed and to what extent the demands of the Parliament will indeed be taken into consideration. After all, Brexit would be unchartered territory for all participants: apart from Greenland’s exit from the EEC in 1985, no other country as ever applied for exiting the European Union.