Talks are moving on, but Tory divisions threaten further progress

Labour MEPs voted today to move on to the next phase of Brexit talks, but warned that Tory infighting poses a threat to the whole process. Labour MEPs also vowed to continue to apply pressure to secure greater certainty and guarantees on citizens’ rights.

However, the vote is not a blank cheque for negotiators on either side, nor a green light for the government to continue the talks in the same haphazard manner.

It is important to also note that Tory MEPs have abstained from the vote and UKIP MEPs voted against it, as it contained a damning amendment related to David Davis’s damaging comments that progress in Brexit talks was just a ‘statement of intent’. The amendment, tabled by EU Brexit Coordinator Guy Verhofstadt, states that negotiations can only progress during the second phase if the UK government also fully respects the commitments it made in the Joint Report and they are fully translated into the draft Withdrawal Agreement.

Paul Brannen MEP said: “The recent reckless comments made by David Davis beg the question: who speaks for the UK government? The notion that the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU doesn’t necessarily speak for his party’s government on Brexit itself is as daft as it is unhelpful. Trump’s White House may well be dysfunctional, but this Tory Cabinet is worse.

“Negotiating teams have been put on notice; phase one was the easy part, and moving forward, they’ll need to agree issues twice as difficult in half the time. It is patently clear that the Conservatives cannot deliver a Brexit deal that works for Britain.”

Jude Kirton-Darling MEP said: “Labour MEPs voted to move on to the next phase in Brexit negotiations, but there is still a long way to go with many outstanding matters left unresolved. However, significant guarantees have been made recently whereby all EU citizens resident in Britain and Brits in other member states will enjoy the full set of rights established in EU law and their families and any future children will also be protected. We voted so these guarantees are kept, but there’s still more to be done to ensure that citizens lives are undisturbed by Brexit, as both sides of the talks have promised, so this deal isn’t done yet. As we enter the second phase, citizens’ rights must be dealt with separately from trade and other issues - we won’t accept people’s lives being treated as bargaining chips for any longer.

“Labour MEPs have campaigned for citizens’ rights to be unilaterally guaranteed from day one and we will continue to do so. We will also fight to ensure the Tories don’t take Britain out of the social chapter.”

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