THE European Parliament could veto any future Brexit deal agreed with Brussels if the UK attempts to carry out trade negotiations with countries outside the bloc before Spring 2019, a bombshell document reveals tonight.
Euro MPs have produced a seven page list of their demands for the upcoming talks and have made it clear they will vote down the final agreement if both sides do not comply with them.
In their draft resolution they call for the UK to sign up to being an “associate member” of the bloc, which includes paying a membership fee, instead of signing a free trade agreement after leaving.
And they warned both Mrs May and the leaders of other EU member states against trying to strike individual deals “behind our back”, saying such a move would be a deal breaker.
The resolution was presented at a press conference this evening led by flamboyant Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt and EU Parliament president Antonio Tajani.
It lays out a number of potentially hugely tricky demands of the upcoming negotiations and could prove as much of a thorn in the side to the rest of Europe as it does to the UK.
The top priority – ensuring the reciprocal rights of citizens – should be easily settled but the MEPs insistence on the European Court of Justice (ECJ) signing off on and enforcing any Brexit deal could prove a sticking point.
Mr Verhofstadt presented the resolution alongside EU Parliament chief Antonio Tajani
They have also ruled out any plans Mrs May had to impose a “cut-off” date for EU migrants arriving in Britain, saying that “any degradation of the rights linked to freedom of movement…would be contrary to Union law”.
But it is the demand that the puts all of its trade ambitions on the back burner for the next two years which will be the most difficult for Downing Street to swallow.
The resolution states states: “It would be contrary to Union law for the United Kingdom to begin, in advance of its withdrawal, negotiations on possible trade agreements with third countries.
“Such an action would be in contradiction with the principle of sincere cooperation…and should have consequences among which the United Kingdom’s exclusion from the procedures for trade negotiations.”
Speaking in Brussels tonight, Mr Verhofstadt and Mr Tajani both made clear they are not ruling out the nuclear option of vetoing any Brexit deal if their conditions are not met.
We will never accept that behind our back the UK is starting trade negotiations wth other countries before the withdrawal
Mr Verhofstadt said: “What we want to do is make very clear what the points are that have to be met in order to give the approval to this final agreement, so it’s not an exercise in the air.
“We hope for fair and constructive negotiations, that means no behind our backs. We make very clear that we will never accept that behind our back the UK is starting trade negotiations wth other countries before the withdrawal.
“The same goes for all member states of the EU who could be tempted to negotiate separate agreements with the UK.”
The former Belgian PM said he expected any agreement on an associate membership status, which would “go well beyond economic cooperation”, would take several years and require a transitional deal.
And he added that whilst Article 50 could potentially be withdrawn if there is a “change of heart” in the UK, such a move must not “be used as a ploy to gain more time or secure new advantages for membership”.
Mr Tajani said the negotiations would be “difficult and complex” and added that Britain’s orderly departure from the bloc was an “absolute requirement” for good future relations.
The Italian official added that leaving the bloc without a deal, as Theresa May has threatened, would be a “catastrophe” for both sides and warned the PM against turning Britain into a tax haven.
He said: “Not reaching a deal on the rights of citizens means not reaching a deal at all. In addition the UK will have to honour its financial commitments.
“The UK will not be asked to pay for anything hey have not previously agreed to. It’s evident that the no deal scenario would be a catastrophe for all but especially for the UK.”
He said a no deal scenario would create chaos including imposition of tariffs, huge uncertainty for the UK’s car industry, increased food prices and long lines of lorries at Dover.
And he warned Mrs May: “A fiscal race to the bottom would not lay the foundations for a sound relationship with the EU after Brexit.”