The European Parliament will finally grant its consent to the EU-U.K. post-Brexit trade deal at a plenary session starting April 26, Parliament President David Sassoli said Tuesday.
“We will have our plenary April 26, so this is the last date” for ratification, Sassoli said in an interview with POLITICO, adding that “there will be no extension” to this date.
EU national governments and the British parliament have already approved the deal, which was clinched in late December, and the European Parliament’s ratification is the final step before the agreement legally comes into full force. The deal has been implemented since January 1 under provisional application, to avoid the potentially catastrophic consequences of a no-deal, cliff-edge scenario.
U.K. and EU negotiators pushed their talks close to the December 31 deadline despite the European Parliament’s warnings that at least three months would be needed for proper scrutiny and ratification.
In March, political group leaders in the Parliament decided to postpone their ratification vote after the U.K. unveiled plans to unilaterally extend grace periods on post-Brexit customs checks at Northern Ireland’s ports for at least six months. The Commission said in a statement at the time that such a move marked the “second time” the U.K. government had been “set to breach international law” after a heated row over the border erupted in 2020.
In the interview on Tuesday, Sassoli made clear on that the ratification of the deal must move forward, regardless of the U.K.’s actions, and he insisted that there would be no further delay. “I’ll tell you honestly that many times, even we struggle to understand some of the behavior on the other side of the Channel,” he said, adding: “What we want is a serene development of the agreements that have been sealed.”
“We have always been very patient, but we are at a critical point now,” Sassoli said.
Officials said that a majority of MEPs appear ready to give their consent. The text must first go through the Parliament’s foreign affairs and trade committees before the April plenary session.