The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) was passed by MEPs today (28 April), but the preceding parliamentary debate revealed the EU’s determination to hold the UK to the deal’s terms.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told the European Parliament that the deal protected the integrity of the EU single market and provided tools to “ensure full and faithful compliance with the obligations which both sides signed up to”.
Deal has ‘real teeth’
She also said that the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol would continue to pose difficulties for both sides and that a lot of “vigilance, diligence and hard work” lay ahead.
Von der Leyen warned that the EU will not hesitate to use the “real teeth” of the deal to punish the British government if it breaches its obligations, according to the Guardian.
She added, “we do not want to have to use these tools, but we will not hesitate to use them if necessary”.
‘Better than nothing’
While PM Boris Johnson and Brexit minister Lord Frost welcomed the deal as heralding a new relationship with the EU, European commentators were less flattering.
The BBC reports the parliament's Brexit co-ordinator, Guy Verhofstadt, describing the deal as “a failure for both sides, but better than nothing”.
The EU’s former lead negotiator, Michel Barnier, told MEPs: “This is a divorce. It is a warning. It's a failure of the European Union and we have to learn lessons from it”.
While the signing of the deal at the end of last year marked the end of the tense negotiations that drew plenty of the national media’s attention in the last months of 2020, the two sides remain locked in talks over multiple issues that have emerged in its aftermath.
The Times yesterday reported a fresh dispute over EU access to UK waters which could lead to a French blockade of the Boulogne port where many Scottish fishermen land valuable catches of langoustine, scallop and white fish.
French minister for Europe, Clément Beaune, weighed into the row threatening today to use enforcement powers in the TCA to target the City of London.
“We are asking for the whole deal, nothing but the deal, and for as long as it is not being implemented, we will carry out reprisals in other sectors if it is necessary,” he said.
The Times also reports strong words from MEPs laying the blame for violence in Northern Ireland at the feet of Brexiteers and Boris Johnson.
Maros Sefcovic, the EU vice-president leading ongoing talks over the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol, told MEPs that there are levers in the TCA that could be used to hold the UK to account if it breached its agreements with the EU.
These include “cross retaliation and suspension of market access,” he said.