MEPs have resoundingly approved a resolution on the start of the UK’s Brexit talks, opening the way for an “association agreement” with Britain following its departure from the bloc.
In total 516 MEPs supported the resolution, with 133 opposed after a lengthy and at times ill-tempered debate in the chamber in Strasbourg. There were 50 abstentions.
MEPs are not directly involved in Brexit negotiations but wield a veto over the Article 50 process and will have to approve any final exit and trade deal.
An association agreement would allow a close relationship between Britain and the EU, although it would force the UK to work in conjunction with the bloc on policies such as tax evasion, trade and social policy.
Wednesday’s Brexit motion warned that Britain must abide by all its obligations while it was still a member of the EU, including maintaining budgetary contributions, adhering to the rulings of the European Court of Justice and not violating the EU’s common trade policy by signing trade deals with other countries.
MEPs have already laid out a series of “red lines” for the talks, including the fair treatment of EU citizens living in the UK and a continuing role for the ECJ to secure such rights.
Antonio Tajani, president of the European Parliament, said the body would “carry the burden of defending the rights” of its citizens.
Guy Verhofstadt, the parliament’s chief negotiator on Brexit, lamented the loss of the UK’s liberal presence during its more than 40 years of membership.
Still, he warned any deal with the UK should not “touch” the principles guiding the single market or the Good Friday Agreement with Northern Ireland.
The former Belgian prime minister has also held out the prospect of Britons reacquiring EU citizenship after Brexit.
“We are very generous and positive to the UK’s citizens”, said Mr Verhofstadt.
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