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European Parliament sets Sunday deadline for approving Brexit deal this year

EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier arrives for talks in Brussels, Belgium, December 17, 2020 REUTERS/Yves Herman© Thomson Reuters EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier arrives for talks in Brussels, Belgium, December 17, 2020 REUTERS/Yves Herman

The European Parliament will not meet to ratify a Brexit trade deal this year unless one is signed before Sunday, the leaders of its main political groups have said.

The new red line means Britain is expected to face a no-deal exit from the single market if nothing has been agreed by the close of the weekend – causing significant economic disruption.

In a joint statement, the parliament’s conference of presidents said they stood “ready to organise an extraordinary plenary session towards the end of December” but only if “an agreement is reached by midnight on Sunday 21st”.

Britain's chief Brexit negotiator David Frost leaves the UK Representation to the EU in Brussels on December 17, 2020, ahead of talks with EU on a post-Brexit trade deal. (Photo by Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP) (Photo by KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP via Getty Images)Britain’s chief Brexit negotiator David Frost leaves the UK Representation to the EU in Brussels on December 17, 2020, ahead of talks with EU on a post-Brexit trade deal. (Photo by Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP) (Photo by KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP via Getty Images)

Dacian Cioloș, leader of the parliament’s liberal Renew group and an ally of Emmanuel Macron, said the deadline was necessary because “uncertainty hanging over citizens and businesses as a result of UK choices” was becoming “intolerable”.

Manfred Weber, chair of the parliament’s largest group, the centre-right European People’s Party, said: “After [Sunday] we cannot reasonably scrutinise the deal before the end of the year. The agreement is too important to rush through Parliament.

“We owe it to the people and businesses in our constituencies who will be heavily affected by Brexit, to scrutinise the deal appropriately. After Sunday we don’t believe this would still be possible.”

Trucks queue on the A16 highway to enter the Channel tunnel in Calais, northern France, as Britain prepares to leave the European Union's orbit in about two weeks, December 17, 2020.  REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol© Thomson Reuters Trucks queue on the A16 highway to enter the Channel tunnel in Calais, northern France, as Britain prepares to leave the European Union’s orbit in about two weeks, December 17, 2020. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

Iratxe Garcia Perez, leader of the centre-left socialist group, said: “We will not be rushed into a consent vote of the Brexit deal before the end of the year if we don’t have access to the text by Sunday.”

The warning raises the possibility that the UK could be hit by a limited period of trading on no-deal terms from the beginning of January, even if an agreement is signed before the end of the year.

While the European Union and UK both have some powers for “provisional” application of deals without the consent of their parliaments, it is not clear whether these would help prevent a no-deal in this case.

Gallery: Brexit timeline (Photo Services) 

Michel Barnier is understood to have told ambassadors and MEPs in separate private meetings that even the reduced length of the provisional application process means there could well be a short no-deal in January even if it is used.

The European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has also promised the Parliament that she would not use the procedure for the trade deal. The joint statement by the parliamentary group leaders recalls this, noting that Ms Von der Leyen said provisional application could take place “only once the European Parliament has given its consent”.

The Independent additionally understands that the European Council’s legal service believes that provisional application would not be fast enough to prevent a no-deal on 1 January if the process was set in motion after this week.

Source www.msn.com