European Parliament sets out plans to influence Brexit

The European Parliament has given more details on how it plans to exert maximum influence on the Brexit process. While they will not have a seat at the negotiating table, they will use the fact that any final withdrawal agreement and future trade agreement will need their consent, in order to be as closely involved as possible.

Three stages have been identified:
Now to March 2017: preparation for the triggering of Article 50 and adoption of EP resolution setting out red lines;
March 2017-March 2019: ensure access to draft negotiating positions and support Commission in protecting the EU’s interests
Post March 2019: EP votes on whether to gives its consent to final withdrawal agreement

The political group leaders meeting in the Conference of Presidents will maintain leadership of the process but keep the various sectoral committees closely involved and informed. The first task has been to ask each committee (ie ENVI, ITRE etc) to analyse the consequences of Brexit on ongoing legislation and policies from a strictly factual point of view and not offer any view on what might be a desirable outcome of the negotiations. President Schulz has argued that to do otherwise would compromise the principle of “no negotiations without notification” to which all the EU institutions are committed.

The committees work will be coordinated by both Jerzy Buzek (EPP/PL), the Chairman of the Conference of Committee Chairmen, and Guy Verhofstadt, the EP’s point man on the Brexit talks. The aim will be to have this analysis ready by early 2017 to feed into a resolution that the EP will adopt immediately after the UK has triggered Article 50, setting out its red lines (ie integrity of the 4 freedoms) with the aim of influencing the negotiation guidelines to be adopted by the European Council (Art 50 (2)).

AFCO (Constitutional Affairs Committee) under the presidency of former EU Commissioner Danuta Hubner (EPP/PL) will be the lead committee for monitoring negotiations once they start and will set up an ad hoc working group to hear experts and analyse draft negotiating texts. On international negotiations (like TTIP and CETA), the EP has access to draft negotiating positions and other sensitive documents and they will expect the same degree of shared information, at least from the Commission’s side. As the House of Commons debates how much influence it can exert on the government’s negotiating stance, it is worth noting that Brexit Minister David Davis has promised that Westminster will have as large a right of scrutiny as the EP. MEPs like Richard Corbett (S&D/GB) are already talking about how MPs and MEPs can best share information.

As a result, most of these ad-hoc AFCO meetings will be held in camera but Verhofstadt will report regularly back on the state of negotiations to AFCO in open sessions, as well as to the political group leaders. At this stage there are no plans to set up a special committee but the EP may come back to this once the negotiations have started for real. At the moment Verhofstadt does not have a dedicated Brexit team of officials, like Barnier’s Task Force in the Commission, and he will rely on the assistance of various parliamentary services for his work (as he did when negotiator on the IIA on Better Law-making).

The EP’s formal role only starts once the final withdrawal agreement is reached where the consent of the parliament is needed, by a simple majority vote (“majority of votes cast”), including British MEPs.

The EP’s Policy department will be asked to provide regular reports and it has already published Brexit-related reports on immigration, sovereignty, competitiveness and better law-making and economic governance.

Author

Richard Steel

Senior Associate

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