Brexit talks: European Parliament gives conditional approval for 2nd phase

The European Parliament on Wednesday gave conditional approval to move the Brexit negotiations onto the second phase.

Brexit talks: European Parliament gives conditional approval for 2nd phase

Strasbourg: The European Parliament on Wednesday gave conditional approval to move the Brexit negotiations onto the second phase, although it added an amendment calling for agreements adopted on citizens rights and the divorce bill in the preliminary stages to be written into a legal document.

The vote edges the UK and the EU closer to talks on a future trade deal but the amendment calling for phase one commitments to be legally enshrined and concerns raised about comments made by Brexit Secretary David Davis suggesting the agreements were merely "a statement of intent," demonstrated the European Parliament's caution heading into stage two. 

"By 556 votes to 62, the European Parliament has just confirmed its conditional support for the Article 50 Brexit talks to move to Phase 2," according to a statement cited by Efe news. 

"But, the European Parliament resolution adopted today makes clear that phase 1 commitments entered into the Joint Report should be translated into a legal text asap," it added. 

Following a crunch meeting in Brussels on Friday, British Prime Minister Theresa May and European Commission President Jean Claude-Juncker announced a breakthrough in the first phase of talks.

It suggested that sufficient progress had been made on the rights of EU citizens in the UK and vice-versa, the so-called Brexit divorce bill that could see London pay some $52 billion to leave the bloc and the issue of maintaining a soft border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland, a UK territory. 

It was widely regarded as a success for May, who had to overcome a rebellion not just from a regional Northern Irish party that supports her government but also from her own backbenchers over the future status of Northern Ireland. 

Speaking on British TV days later, however, Davis suggested that the agreements would not be legally binding, a statement that caught the attention of Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament's Brexit spokesperson, who signed an amendment to the Council's resolution directly raising concerns about Davis' remarks. 

It said his comments "risked undermining the good faith that has been built during the negotiations".

The UK is scheduled to leave the EU on March 29, 2019 after narrowly voting in favour of Brexit in June 2016.

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