The European Parliament has voted for a tough stance during the Brexit negotiations, dashing the Prime Minister’s hopes of holding divorce and trade talks in tandem.
MEPs heard from European Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, and chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, who both insisted that the EU cannot negotiate on Britain’s future relationship with the bloc until the divorce talks are “fully resolved”.
Barnier said this includes the UK settling its financial commitments. Although no figure was mentioned during the debate, the EU’s estimate for the divorce bill is thought to be around £50bn.
Barnier said: “We do not seek to punish the United Kingdom, we are simply asking the United Kingdom to deliver on its commitments and undertakings as a member of the European Union.”
MEPs, who can effectively veto any future deal if a majority are dissatisfied with the results, voted 560 to 133 in favour of a resolution that set out the EU’s redlines for the two year negotiations.
The redlines include making sure the UK honours its current spending obligations and the rejection of attempts to “cherry-pick” access to the single market for sectors such as financial services.
MEPs warned that the issue of security cannot be used as leverage during negotiations over trade and backed the European Commission’s refusal to hold divorce and trade talks at the same time.
Barnier also made clear that a breakdown in talks would hurt both parties.
He said: “No deal would have very serious consequences, first and foremost for the United Kingdom, but also for the European Union.
“The ‘no deal‘ scenario is not the scenario we are looking for. We are looking for success – success not against the United Kingdom, but with the United Kingdom.”
Centre-right EPP leader, Manfred Weber MEP, from Germany, said the EU would take a “tough negotiating position” and that the UK would not be able to simply select areas – including free trade, security and scientific research – that its wants to co-operate with the EU on.
He said: “I feel London thinks it will find the perfect deal and will take the positive points and leave the negative points.
“This will not happen. Cherry-picking will not happen. A state outside the EU cannot have the same or better conditions than a state inside the EU.”
Leader of the Italian socialist group, Gianni Pittella MEP, warned that the EU parliament would prevent a Brexit deal if the divorce settlement was not adhered to by the UK.
Speaking after the vote, shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said: “It is important that the European Parliament has reached agreed guidelines, and we particularly welcome the emphasis that negotiations should be conducted in ‘good faith and full transparency’.
“Labour also strongly support the Parliament’s insistence that a future EU-UK deal requires the UK to retain international standards on human rights, climate change, social rights and the fight against tax evasion and avoidance. Labour’s six tests for the final Brexit deal made clear that there can be no drop in EU-derived rights and protections.”