Senior MEP issues warning to UK as crucial round of Brexit talks kick off
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Senior MEP issues warning to UK as crucial round of Brexit talks kick off

Written by Martin Banks

David McAllister, who chairs the European Parliament’s UK Coordination Group, cautioned that if the UK “reneges on what it signed up to” it will have to face “concrete consequences.”

McAllister’s stark warning comes as the fourth – and crucial – round of talks on the EU-UK post-Brexit relationship, which will be the last round before the UK can request a deadline for a possible extension of the transition period, start today.

The so-called “level playing field” and the thorny issue of fisheries are two of the key sticking points that the two sides hope to resolve by the end of this week.

The UK transition period is due to end in December and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has insisted there will be no extension to this.

Ahead of the resumption of talks, McAllister said, “The EU-UK negotiations have so far yielded little progress. Instead, over the past few days, the EU was attacked over its insistence that the current negotiations must translate the Political Declaration, which Boris Johnson personally negotiated line-by-line last autumn, into a legal text.”

The MEP, who was given a debriefing on the current state of the talks in a meeting with EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier last Friday, said, “The UK government would damage trust and seriously undermine the negotiations if it were to renege on what it signed up to less than one year ago. Parliament will not consent to an agreement that departs from the Political Declaration.”

The EPP member also warned, “Parliament will not consent to an agreement that does not include provisions on level playing field, fundamental rights, robust governance and a stable framework for fisheries.”

An equally stern threat comes from the political group he belongs to, Parliament’s biggest grouping, which has issued a statement saying that while it wants the EU to “build a broad partnership” with Britain, the extent of this future cooperation “will depend on the UK’s readiness to deliver on what was agreed.”

The Socialist group has also adopted a tough stance towards the UK, with Pedro Silva Pereira, its spokesperson on the EU-UK negotiations saying, “If the UK is serious about a deal, we need to see significant progress in this week’s negotiations.”

After a vote in the committees of foreign affairs, which McAllister chairs, and international trade on 12 June, Parliament will vote on a resolution at the 17-19 June plenary session to sum up its stance ahead of the milestone high-level conference with the UK.

Meanwhile, a newly signed bilateral deal means that EU citizens from Poland will continue to enjoy the same rights in Britain as they did prior to Britain leaving the EU at the start of this year.

The agreement signed last week gives Polish citizens in the UK – and British citizens in Poland – the right to vote and stand in local elections in their country of residence.

It follows similar announcements in relation to the rights of Spanish, Portuguese and Luxembourg citizens in the UK.

Many Britons living in the EU automatically lost the right to vote and stand in European elections because they fall foul of legislation which excludes the rights of non-EU citizens to vote from 31 January when the UK exited the EU.

The right of EU citizens to vote and stand as candidates in local elections has been enshrined in UK law and includes elections to local councils, the London Authority and the Welsh Assembly as well as votes for mayors and local crime commissioners.

In Scotland, the right to vote in local elections and the right to vote for the Scottish parliament is a devolved power. The Scottish government recently announced that all citizens from abroad (with the exception of asylum-seekers) will have the right to vote and stand as candidates.

Roger Casale, of the campaign group New Europeans, told The Parliament Magazine, “Scotland has set an example which the rest of the UK should follow. Democracy works best when every voice can be heard. It should also be emphasised that it would be quite wrong to deprive EU citizens resident in the UK of any of the rights they enjoyed pre-Brexit including the right to vote.”

Elsewhere, Jayne Adye, director of the cross-party eurosceptic campaign Get Britain Out, says the Withdrawal Agreement has “left Britons abroad, behind.”

She said, “Barnier, constantly talks about the WA’s obligations not being fulfilled by the UK as well as implications the UK is not taking the Brexit negotiations seriously enough to secure a deal.”

“One of the main themes of Barnier’s argument is the matter of ‘EU citizens’ rights’ in the UK being held up as not being properly secured in the UK post-transition period. This claim itself is clutching at straws, as millions of EU citizens have already easily claimed settled status in the UK – which is something which cannot be said for UK citizens residing in the EU.”

She told this website, “It is shocking that countries like Spain and France – where most British expatriates reside within the EU and contribute to their economy – have done next to nothing to alert British citizens of the forthcoming changes and provide a system for them to be properly registered so they can continue living there.”