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European Parliament Counters Prime Minister May's Mansion House Speech

Tensions continue to rise as the UK and EU struggle to define a framework for their future relationship post-Brexit.


Last week Prime Minister Theresa May presented the UK’s vision of Brexit in her Mansion House speech. In this speech, May made clear that although in some aspects it behooves the UK to maintain equivalent laws and standards as the EU, EU jurisdiction over the UK must come to an end post-Brexit. May also called for an ambitious trade deal that would allow the UK to remain as closely aligned with EU, specifically in the financial and trade services enjoyed within the single market. The Prime Minister acknowledged the hope for a customs deal that will ensure tariff-free trade and a frictionless passage of goods, as it will benefit both the UK and EU in the long run. However, the details of her proposal called for a sort of “cherry-picking” style agreement, as May expressed the interest in aligning only with certain areas of the single market while excluding others.


Just yesterday, after the release of a draft resolution on the framework of the future of the EU and UK relationship by the EP Conference of Presidents, it is clear that the European Parliament will not accept some of Theresa May’s proposals, specifically rebuffing May’s vision for trade following the UK withdrawal. Donald Tusk, European Council president, went so far as to warn the UK that the trade relationship as proposed by May would lead to “negative economic consequences” for the UK. Tusk’s proposal can also be pictured as a hardliner’s view on post-Brexit EU/UK relationship.


Although the draft EP resolution rejects the idea of a ‘sector by sector’ trade agreement, it did present an answer to May’s call for an agreement unlike previous agreements the EU holds with countries such as Norway, Canada, and Switzerland. The draft states that the EU plans to establish an ‘association’ to manage the relationship between the two entities. This association will have four pillars - trade and economics, international security, internal security, and thematic cooperation - so as to insure the agreements made between the EU and UK will be detailed and cover all required areas.


Guy Verhofstadt, Brexit Coordinator, looks to the future with the hope that the resolution released by Parliament will be a fruitful attempt to “find the bridge” between the hard points of the UK and the principles of the EU. However, EP President Antonio Tajani was less encouraging of the current status of negotiations, as he made it clear that Parliament is still unsatisfied with state of EU citizens’ rights post-Brexit and that it is these rights and not the establishment of the association agreement that will take priority during any further negotiations.


Overall, the draft resolution communicates one simple message in rebuttal to May’s Mansion Speech:


A third country cannot receive the same benefits as an EU Member State, and even though the UK may have identical legislation or regulatory alignment, it will still become a third country and thus cannot continue receiving the benefits and market access it currently has a Member State.



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