European Parliament says there's lack of progress on Brexit
The European Parliament -- which will have to approve any agreement the European Union strikes with the UK over its withdrawal from the bloc -- backed on Tuesday a motion that there has not been sufficient progress in the Brexit talks.
The non-binding measure was backed by 557 votes to 92 with 29 abstentions.
Britons voted in a referendum on June 23, 2016 to leave the EU. Prime Minster Theresa May triggered article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty in March to set off the two-year negotiation process to complete talks with about the terms of the exit.
"I am prepared to speed up and intensify the negotiations to the greatest possible extent," Michel Barnier, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator told the parliament in Strasbourg. "According to the British government, it will be leaving the single market and customs union after 44 years of integration. No one underestimates the legal complications and the huge social difficulties."
The UK wants to move on to discuss trade but the EU wants to settle terms of the divorce first, specifically how much Britain will pay for commitments made before it leaves, citizens' rights and Northern Ireland's border with the Republic which will become the only UK/EU land frontier.
EU leaders will decide at an October 19-20 meeting if "sufficient progress" has been made for the talks to move on. If not, then a decision may not come until December, leaving just over a year to work out a complex trade deal.
"Especially with regard to citizen's rights, we are very worried," the parliament's Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt said in a statement. "The proposal from our side to solve this is simple. Let EU citizens retain rights they enjoy now in the UK and let's do exactly the same for the UK citizens living on the continent. I even ask myself, why are we still discussing this? This could and should be concluded immediately."
The fifth round of talks are scheduled to start on October 9.
The UK has proposed a two-year transition – or "implementation" – period for the country after Brexit, during which it will still adhere to the bloc's rules and regulations. David Davis, who heads the British team at the negotiations, has said that would "ensure people, businesses and public services only have to plan for one set of changes" and would be quick to agree.
"There may be a transition period," Barnier, who must be mandated by the European Council to negotiate the point, said. "It would be a short period during which the whole structure of regulations and rules, the legal framework of the Court of Justice would remain. The rules of the single market will apply."
The Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice has been a sticking point between the EU and UK. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told the parliament that the institution plays an "indispensable" role in guaranteeing EU citizens' rights.
Davis said on September 28, when the fourth round of talks ended, that the court should not be allowed to rule in cases in the UK, including those concerning citizens' rights.
(Alistair Holloway, firstname.lastname@example.org, +352 49 93 739)