EU Parliament backs opening next round

EU Parliament backs opening next round

STRASBOURG - Agence France-Presse
EU Parliament backs opening next round

The European Parliament gave its backing on Dec. 13 to opening the next phase of Brexit talks, but said Britain must “fully and faithfully” turn last week’s hard-fought divorce deal into a final exit treaty.

Parliament President Antonio Tajani welcomed the vote in Strasbourg, eastern France, as “an important step forward” but said MEPs still had concerns about citizens’ rights and the Irish border.

The resolution, which passed by 556 votes to 62 with 68 abstentions, includes a stinging rebuke for Britain’s Brexit minister David Davis, saying comments he made at the weekend “risk undermining” the negotiations.

Davis caused alarm by telling the BBC on Dec. 10 that a deal struck in Brussels on Dec. 8 after six months of tough, at times acrimonious talks was a “statement of intent” rather than “legally enforceable.”

This prompted the EU to toughen its stance on trade talks and warn London against backsliding on the agreement, which paves the way for an EU summit this Friday to open the next round of negotiations, covering Britain’s future relations with the remaining 27 members of the bloc.

The European Parliament will have the final say on any eventual Brexit deal in 2019, but Wednesday’s vote was not binding.

“While I am optimistic as far as the second phase is concerned, we have to ensure that the joint report presented last week is fully and faithfully translated into the wording of the exit treaty,” Tajani said. “No discussions on future relations will take place if the principles contained are not implemented.”

The parliament’s pointman on Brexit, former Belgian PM Guy Verhofstadt, said Davis had given him an assurance that London would stick to its commitments. Davis had told the BBC that Britain would not honor its 35 billion to 39 billion (40-45 billion euros, $47-$52 billion) divorce bill.

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