The European Parliament has backed a Ukraine-style “association agreement” as the model for future EU-UK relations after Brexit.
Deputies in Strasbourg voted by 544 to 110 on Wednesday (14 March) to approve a resolution drafted by the Parliament’s Brexit Steering group.
Debating the resolution on Tuesday, the Parliament’s lead MEP on Brexit, Guy Verhofstadt, said that it offered “a vision, an architecture for the future.”
“We should start association negotiations with the UK based on four pillars: trade, internal security, thematic cooperation, and external security/defence.”
“I am confident that Britain will see the advantages of such an approach, deep special partnership,” he added.
The Parliament’s proposal states that any future pact with the UK would need to respect the integrity of the EU’s single market, customs union and four freedoms, without allowing for “cherry-picking” of EU laws and sectors that London would want to remain signed up to. It should also preserve the role of the European Court of Justice.
That would fall foul of the UK government’s “red lines” which rules out being subject to decisions by the Luxembourg-based court.
MEPs also welcomed the Commission’s draft of the Withdrawal agreement published in February, and supported its proposed transitional arrangements.
The Parliament has no direct involvement in the Article 50 negotiations themselves, but MEPs will be required to ratify any agreement that emerges from the talks between Michel Barnier’s Brexit taskforce and Theresa May’s team.
EU leaders will gather in Brussels next Thursday (22 March) for a two-day summit that has long been billed as the moment when leaders will sign off on a 21 month transition period – under which the UK would retain access to the single market and continue making contributions to the EU budget until December 2020 – and begin the process of discussing future EU-UK relations.
However, there are still outstanding questions about citizens’ rights during the transition period and how to avoid a “hard border” involving customs checks, between Northern Ireland and the Republic.