Brexit: EU 'have shown their true colours' with UK says host
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Members of the powerful Conference of Presidents – leaders of political groups – in the European Parliament have told bosses they could green-light the UK-EU future relationship pact by the end of the month. It comes after the European Council approved plans to delay ratification of the Brexit trade deal until April 30. EU Parliament President was told by political leaders that they do not need the extra time to scrutinise the 1,246-page treaty.
Following a meeting of the Conference of Presidents, one insider said: “We are ready, the Parliament is ready.”
MEPs are now just waiting on the Council to officially send a referral to Parliament officials to allow the vote to take place, the source told the Politico news website.
The UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement is currently only subject to “provisional application”.
This allows for the deal to provide tariff- and quota-free trade but is still not considered fully approved by the bloc.
Insiders have claimed Brussels needs more time to translate the trade and security treaty into the EU’s 24 official languages.
The original cut-off point for provisional application was set at February 28 by both the UK and EU after the deal was agreed late last year.
An internal Council document states: “Due to the time needed for the European Parliament and the Council to appropriately scrutinise the Agreements in all 24 authentic languages, the Union will not be able to conclude the Trade and Cooperation Agreement before February 28, 2021.
“Therefore, the Partnership Council should set a later date for the provisional application to cease taking into account the time where all language versions will have been revised and authenticated. In view of the envisaged date of availability of the Agreements in all 24 authentic languages, the Partnership Council should set April 30, 2021 as this date.”
Lord Frost this week told the House of Lords’ EU committee that the Commission had already made informal approaches to delay ratification.
But the Prime Minister’s chief negotiator said the hold-up was “disappointing”.
He said: “We have heard informally from the commission today that we are likely to get a formal request to extend the two-month period that is in the treaty for ratification on the EU side.
“We wait to see what that request constitutes and how long they wish to extend the process for. Obviously, it is a little disappointing given that we did discuss this only a month ago.”
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Meanwhile, Downing Street has expressed anger at the Commission for failing to understand the “shock and anger” felt across Northern Ireland after Brussels moved to impose a hard border.
Commission President Ursula von der Leyen moved to trigger Article 16 of the Brexit deal’s border plan to prevent Covid vaccines being shipped into the UK via Ireland.
Last night’s showdown between Cabinet Secretary Michael Gove and Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic came as anger rose over border frictions.
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Mr Sefcovic provoked outrage on Wednesday by ruling out major changes to the Brexit deal’s Northern Ireland protocol – which is designed to avoid a hard border.
Yesterday the Prime Minister’s official spokesman told a Westminster briefing: “We have set out the issues we want to see addressed and that is the purpose of the meeting later.
“It is disappointing that the Commission has failed to acknowledge the shock and anger felt across the community in Northern Ireland from its decision to trigger Article 16 and the need to take urgent steps to restore confidence as a result.”
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