‘You have caused chaos’ - MEPs set out Brexit red lines

PUBLISHED: 14:30 05 April 2017 | UPDATED: 17:42 05 April 2017

PA Wire/PA Images

PA Wire/PA Images

PA Wire/PA Images

MEPs have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a hard stance with Britain over Brexit

The European Union will take a tough line with Britain over Brexit after MEPs voted in favour of a hefty divorce bill and barring the Prime Minister from cherry-picking privileged access to the single market.

And European Commission’s president Jean-Claude Juncker and chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier restated their rejection of Theresa May’s appeal for divorce and trade talks to be held in parallel, insisting the EU could not deal with its future relations with the UK until the terms of withdrawal were “fully resolved”.

Both men also said Britain would have to pay a divorce bill to settle financial commitments – thought to be around £50 billion – entered into as a member state, with Barnier saying: “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 backed by a margin of 560-133 a resolution tabled by the leaders of the main party groupings, which set out red lines for the upcoming withdrawal negotiations under Article 50 of the EU treaties.

Italian socialist group leader Gianni Pittella insisted the European Parliament would be ready to veto a Brexit deal if the conditions of its resolution were not respected.

And in a direct message to Conservative Brexiteers, he added: “You wanted to take back control, but what did you want to take back control of? You were promising people a better future, but your lies have caused absolute chaos in the UK.”

The parliament – which has an effective veto on the deal reached after two years of negotiations – insisted Britain must meet all its financial obligations and rejected any “cherry-picking” of access to the single market for sectors of the UK economy such as financial services.

The resolution backed the commission’s “phased” approach to dealing with the terms of withdrawal before moving on to the question of trade, and warned that there can be no trade-off between security and the future economic relationship between the EU and UK.

Barnier added: “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.”

The leader of the EPP group of centre-right MEPs, Germany’s Manfred Weber, said Britain had to accept that the EU would take a “tough negotiating position”.

The UK could not simply pick and choose areas such as security, scientific collaboration and free trade where it wanted to co-operate with the remaining 27 member states, he added.

“I feel London thinks it will find the perfect deal and will take the positive points and leave the negative points,” Weber said. “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.”

And the parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt predicted Britain would eventually change its mind on Brexit.

“There will be, one day or another, a young man or woman who will try again, who will lead Britain again into the European family once again, and a young generation that will see Brexit for what it really is – a cat-fight in the Conservative Party that got out of hand, a loss of time, a waste of energy and a stupidity.”

Following the vote, Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said: “Theresa May’s plans for a swift Brexit have been left in tatters. It’s clear the Brexiteers’ promises of a quick and easy trade deal with the EU were built on sand.

“We now face years of damaging uncertainty while living standards are squeezed and public services cut. But the door is being left open and Article 50 could still be revoked. That means the British people can still stop a Hard Brexit and, if they want, choose to remain in the EU.”

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