MEP breaks ranks and hits out at dithering eurocrats over delay to crunch Brexit vote

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Dutch socialist Kati Piri told an online event that the European Parliament has everything in place to ratify the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement this week. The process is currently held up because the European Council and Commission are still translating the 1,246-page treaty into the bloc’s more than 20 official languages. Eurocrats were meant to have completed this task before February 28, a deadline agreed with the UK, so MEPs could cast the deciding vote to greenlight the future relationship pact.

But they have applied to Britain for an extension amid fears that the legal document won’t be ready in all of the EU’s languages before April 30.

Ms Piri told reporters that she would be “less diplomatic” in reviewing the current hold-up.

She added: “We are ready to vote.

“The European Parliament has finalised the scrutiny process with 16 opinion-giving committees…in the lead with the international trade and foreign affairs committees, we have everything prepared to go to a vote.

“If we need to, we could still do it this week but we are waiting for the official referral from the Council.”

Despite playing a leading role in the EU Parliament’s scrutiny of the Brexit trade treaty, Ms Piri may miss the vote as she is contesting the Dutch national elections on March 17.

“I am not even sure I can vote on the report on which we have been working on for almost a year,” she said.

German MEP David McAllister, the EU Parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator, said the Commission had put in a request to extend provisional application of the treaty until April 30.

This means both sides would still benefit from zero-tariff, zero-quota trade despite the pact not being fully legally ratified.

Mr McAllister added: “This is a legal requirement that would ensure that all authentic linguistic versions are available before the agreement is formally concluded.”

The decision on whether to allow the EU’s extension request will be taken by Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove, who remains in interim charge of the Partnership Council until Lord Frost, the Prime Minister’s chief negotiator, takes over on March 1.

The Peer has previously questioned why Brussels should be given extra time to complete the process.

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He said: “We have heard informally from the Commission today that we are likely to get a formal request to extend the two-month period that is in the treaty for ratification on the EU side.

“We wait to see what that request constitutes and how long they wish to extend the process for. Obviously, it is a little disappointing given that we did discuss this only a month ago.”

Meanwhile, the European Commission has vowed to defend the Northern Ireland Protocol after the border plan became subject to a Brexiteer legal challenge.

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The DUP and other unionist politicians issued the action in response to trade disruptions between the region and mainland Britain.

In response, a Commission spokesman said: “We are fully committed to the Good Friday Belfast Agreement and to the proper implementation of the protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland – protecting the gains of the peace process, protecting and maintaining stability and avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland.”

EU and UK officials are due to meet this week to discuss potential solutions for ending the tensions in the region.

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