Brexit: European parliament sets Sunday deadline for agreement
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Brexit: European parliament sets Sunday deadline for agreement

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If a post-Brexit trade agreement can be reached by Sunday, the European Parliament is prepared to hold an extraordinary plenary session before the end of the year for its approval, it said on Thursday.

The Conference of Presidents of the parliament “insists that this is contingent on having access to the text of any agreement in advance of the formal referral being made,” it said in a statement.

They want to “avoid the disruptive impacts” of the lack of a Brexit deal, noting “the UK Government’s refusal to even consider extending the transition period.”

That transition period, which went into force when the UK officially left the EU at the end of January, finishes on 31 December. From the new year, the UK will leave the EU’s single market and customs union.

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Without approval by the European Parliament, some argue that an agreement could enter into provisional application on 1 January, while other MEPs have said that this option would boil down to a no-deal Brexit.

Chief Brexit negotiator for the EU Michel Barnier told MEPs on Thursday that reaching a deal would be “difficult but possible.”

While he mentioned “good progress,” he said that the “last stumbling blocks remain,” with fisheries reportedly still making up a difficult issue.

This is in line with statements made by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who saw a “very narrow” path to a Brexit deal, as she told MEPs on Wednesday.

If an agreement cannot be reached, World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules will apply between the EU and the UK, which would mean the introduction of high tariffs and extensive customs controls.

Jason Spinks
The Brussels Times