MEPs are set to approve the Brexit trade deal next week while condemning the UK’s “unilateral actions” in Northern Ireland.
“We are now approaching the finishing line of the ratification process,” said German MEP David McAllister, the European Parliament’s Brexit lead. “Challenges need to be solved jointly within the framework of our new partnership.”
German socialist deputy Bernd Lange said EU-UK negotiations on Northern Ireland are “on track” and that a solution is “in sight”. “Ratification makes sense,” Mr Lange said in a tweet.
In a resolution to be adopted alongside the Parliament’s vote on the trade deal, the European Parliament “condemns” the UK’s one-sided extension of grace periods on food, parcels and pets coming into Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK, which the EU says is a breach of the 2019 Brexit deal.
It calls on the UK to “act in good faith” and asks the Commission to “pursue with vigour the infringement proceeding against the UK” launched last month.
MEPs also warn that the trade deal allows either side to suspend market access if there is “persistent” violation of its terms, or of the exit deal agreed in 2019.
They are “deeply concerned by the recent tensions in Northern Ireland” and insist the EU is “determined to protect” the Good Friday Agreement, the resolution says.
The EU and UK face another Brexit cliff edge at the end of April, when provisional application of last December’s trade deal runs out.
MEPs were holding off on ratifying it until there was a solution to the Northern Irish impasse, which looks more likely after talks between the EU and UK Brexit envoys last week.
The EU’s envoy, Commissioner Maros Sefcovic, said this week that the EU would remain “vigilant but helpful” on Northern Ireland and would hold another round of talks “soon”.
One of the options on the table is a UK-EU veterinary treaty, which would see the UK align with EU rules to avoid the introduction of extra customs checks in Northern Ireland.
Last week, Parliament’s two lead Brexit committees backed the trade deal by 108 votes to one.
Luxembourg’s Christophe Hansen said companies need the “legal certainty” of a vote.