EU parliament again refuses to set date for ratifying Brexit trade deal amid concerns over UK conduct

Jon Stone
·2-min read
The European Parliament building in Strasbourg, where ordinary plenary sessions are held  (Getty Images)
The European Parliament building in Strasbourg, where ordinary plenary sessions are held (Getty Images)

The European Parliament has again refused to set a date to ratify the EU-UK Brexit trade deal, amid concerns about whether the UK is implementing it properly.

Party group leaders had been expected to announce the deal would be ratified at a sitting in late April, but following a meeting said they would wait for reassurances from Boris Johnson's government. 

MEPs on parliament's foreign affairs and trade committees will vote individually on the agreement on Thursday but the main plenary meeting, which is required for full ratification, will wait.

Christophe Hansen, a Luxembourgish centre-right MEP who leads on Brexit for the parliament's trade committee, said that the decision would be "deferred due to the need for progress on roadmap for pragmatic yet full implementation" of the deal.

He added: "Cool heads must prevail."

The decision by the parliament's conference of presidents represents the second time ratification has been delayed, following a decision reported by The Independent in March.

That came after the UK moved to unilaterally extend grace periods on post-Brexit controls at Northern Ireland’s ports for at least six months.

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The British government fears that implementing the agreement it negotiated in full at the stipulated time will cause shortages and further economic problems in Northern Ireland. 

Even under the current relaxed regime, some supermarket shelves in the territory have been left empty since 1 January amid supply problems. 

Anger in the loyalist community partly related to the Brexit settlement has also been blamed for a sustained outbreak of civil disorder in the province. 

Talks are ongoing between the UK and EU on the issue of extending any grace period, with negotiator David Frost due to meet his EU counterpart on Thursday. 

The trade deal has been in provisional operation since 1 January, but it must be fully ratified this month. European Parliament President David Sassoli has named 26 April as the last practical date for a vote in the legislatures plenary and said there will be no extension.

It comes amid reports the UK has asked the EU for more time to respond to legal action launched by the European Commission over the alleged breach. 

The Commission launched legal action against the UK using the treaty’s agreed dispute resolution mechanism earlier this year.

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