David McAllister: Plenary Speech on the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement
The consent of the European Parliament to the Trade and Cooperation agreement marks the end of an unprecedented process. But above all, it marks the beginning of a new relationship with the United Kingdom – an important neighbour, partner and ally.
Indeed, since the provisional application of this agreement on 1 January, we are witnessing practical difficulties.
Indeed, the agreement is not completely exhaustive. Provisions on foreign policy and security cooperation are missing. And all of us deeply regret that the UK will no longer participate in the successful Erasmus Plus programme.
Indeed, it is clear that more work will need to be done to broaden and deepen our new partnership with the UK in the upcoming years.
However, it has always been clear from the beginning that even an agreement as comprehensive as the one we are voting on today simply cannot replace EU membership. A third country cannot have the same rights and benefits as a Member State.
Yet, the trade and cooperation agreement is a solid legal basis for our future relations with the United Kingdom. It gives people and businesses on both sides of the Channel legal certainty and prevents the “cliff-edge Brexit” with trade on WTO terms that we all were determined to avoid.
During the negotiations, it was not self-evident that a deal could be reached by the end of the transition period. The talks were very challenging and certainly complex. Allow me to thank our Chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, and his team for their outstanding work and for the very good cooperation with Parliament’s UK Coordination Group.
Now, the agreement needs to be implemented. The practical difficulties that we have witnessed in the first weeks of the provisional application result from the type of Brexit that the UK government has chosen for itself.
With regard to the worrying situation in Northern Ireland, it is clear for us that the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement, including the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland, is the only way to protect the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement. It is the only way to preserve peace and stability, while avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland and maintaining the integrity of the EU Single Market. The EU has always been and will remain fully committed to work on practical solutions.
Let me be absolutely clear: The Protocol is not the problem. The protocol is part of the solution of the problem. The name of the problem is Brexit!
As European Parliament, we will follow the situation closely and will play a key role in the implementation and scrutiny of the Withdrawal and the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.
In this regard, let me commend President Ursula von der Leyen and Vice President Maroš Šefčovič, for the Commission’s commitment to the future role Parliament must play in the monitoring and the implementation of this agreement.
Finally, allow me to thank everyone involved in this in so many ways unprecedented and challenging negotiation process.
- The members of the UK Coordination Group, in which we worked very well and constructively together,
- President Sassoli and the group leaders in the CoP as well as the parliamentary committees for their trust in and the good cooperation with the UKCG,
- as well as the involved staff, which worked so tirelessly.
While Brexit is and will always be a lose-lose situation, the negotiations have shown once again that our strength as European Union lies in our unity. We all should keep this in mind when further developing our community of states.