MEPs have backed a motion by 516 to 133, setting out the European Parliament’s position for the Brexit negotiations. While MEPs will not take part in the negotiations, they will have to vote in favour of the final deal for it to go ahead. At a press conference following the vote, Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit negotiator, said the vote meant that “the UK on the one hand and the [European] Commission on the other hand now know the position of the Parliament, what the red lines are”. Mr Verhofstadt said that “the interests of our citizens is our first priority” and called for an early resolution of the status of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens elsewhere in Europe.
The motion backs a number of positions taken by EU leaders, including the need for a “phased approach” to negotiations: it has been suggested that key financial commitments would need to be agreed before talks can progress towards a future trading relationship. The European Parliament supported upholding the UK’s financial commitments after it leaves the EU and called for transparency from both sides in the upcoming talks. Some of the other key proposals in the motion were as follows: any transitional arrangements should be time-limited to three years and be enforced by the EU’s Court of Justice; UK citizens in the EU and EU citizens in Britain should receive “reciprocal” treatment; the final deal should not include a “trade-off” between trade and security co-operation; the UK should adhere to EU environmental and anti-tax evasion standards to get close trade ties; the European Banking Authority and European Medicines Agency should be moved out of London; and the UK should pay towards costs for the EU that “arise directly from its withdrawal.” During the debate, Manfred Weber, chairman of the largest group of MEPs, the centre-right European People’s Party, said: “Cherry-picking will not happen. A state outside the European Union will not have better conditions than a state inside the European Union.” Gianni Pitella, chairman of the European Socialists and Democrats also argued that the UK “cannot benefit from the same conditions as members do” and added: “If you leave the house, you still have to pay the bills.” Speaking on the importance of the European Parliament in the months ahead, President Jean-Claude Juncker told MEPs: “The role of this parliament is more important than ever. You must scrutinise and validate the final agreement. We will of course negotiate in friendship and openness and not in a hostile mood, with a country that has brought so much to our union and will remain close to hearts long after they have left, but this is now the time for reason over emotion. What’s at stake here are the lives of millions of people. Millions have family or professional links to the United Kingdom.” Meanwhile, Nigel Farage, UKIP MEP, said that the European Parliament was trying to impose conditions which were “impossible to comply with” and accused the EU of seeking to impose a bill of £52bn on the UK as “a form of ransom demand.”