The European Parliament has voted in favour of a resolution calling for Brexit negotiations to progress to phase two. The resolution was passed by 552 votes to 62, with 68 abstentions. Although non-binding, it is seen as paving the way for a confirmation by the European Council that “sufficient progress” has been made for negotiations to move on to the UK’s future relationship with the EU. The resolution also criticised UK Brexit Secretary David Davis who angered senior figures in Brussels when he said that last week’s joint report provisionally settling the issues surrounding citizens rights, the Irish border and the Brexit divorce bill was more of a “statement of intent than it was a legally enforceable thing”.
Referring to Davis’s comments MEPs said that they “risk undermining the good faith that has been built during the negotiations.” The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier put further pressure on Davis not to pull back on the UK’s commitments outlined in the joint report. “We will not accept any going back on this joint report. This progress has been agreed and will be rapidly translated into a withdrawal accord that is legally binding in all three areas and on some others that remain to be negotiated,” Barnier said. Manfred Weber, a close ally of Angela Merkel’s and the leader of the centre-right bloc in the European Parliament said: “By downgrading this agreement to a statement of intent, the UK government is putting our trust at risk. The EU27 & UK must make it clear on Thursday that the agreement is binding for both sides.”
After speaking with Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator, to smooth over the ruffled feathers caused by his comments Davis tweeted: “Pleasure, as ever, to speak to my friend [Guy Verhofstadt] we both agreed on the importance of the joint report. Let’s work together to get it converted into legal text as soon as possible.”
Prime Minister Theresa May will fly to Brussels on Thursday for a meeting of the European Council where it is expected that EU leaders will approve the start of trade talks in January.