Reality Check: European Parliament's 'red lines' on Brexit

Michel Barnier (R), European Chief Negotiator for Brexit and Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission Image copyright EPA
Image caption Michel Barnier (R), European Chief Negotiator for Brexit and Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission will pay a key role in negotiations

The European Parliament has overwhelmingly approved a non-binding resolution that lays out its views on the Brexit negotiations.

The parliament will have no formal role in shaping the Brexit talks. The negotiations will be led by the European Commission on behalf of the EU's remaining 27 member states. Their draft negotiating guidelines were issued last week.

But the parliament's views still matter because under the Article 50 rules it will get a vote on the final EU-UK "divorce" deal and if it does not like what has been agreed it could demand changes and delay the process.

BBC Reality Check correspondent Chris Morris teases out some of the key sentences from the resolution and explains their significance.

Article 50 may be revoked

- A revocation of notification needs to be subject to conditions set by all EU-27, so that it cannot be used as a procedural device or abused in an attempt to improve on the current terms of the United Kingdom's membership;

This is interesting. It implies that the European Parliament thinks the UK can change its mind about Article 50 (whereas the UK government has implied the opposite). The truth is that irrevocability is the subject of legal dispute and, as this is a matter of interpreting a European treaty, the ultimate arbiter would be the European Court of Justice. Either way, the parliament makes clear here that it would not allow the UK to plead for a better deal if it tried to return - even the package of measures offered to David Cameron in February 2016 (remember this?) is now null and void.

Timing of the deal

- Reiterates the importance of the withdrawal agreement and any possible transitional arrangement(s) entering into force well before the elections to the European Parliament of May 2019;

In theory the two-year Article 50 negotiating period could be extended if all parties agreed, but no-one really wants that to happen. And this is one of the reasons why the timetable is so tight. If the UK was still part of the European Union in May 2019, it might have to hold elections to elect British MEPs, despite being on the verge of leaving. It would raise all sorts of complications that the European Parliament is determined to avoid.

'Divorce bill'

- Stresses that the United Kingdom must honour all its legal, financial and budgetary obligations, including commitments under the current multiannual financial framework, falling due up to and after the date of its withdrawal;

Another reminder of the looming fight about settling the accounts (also known as the divorce bill). Parliament insists that the UK must honour all its commitments under the current multiannual financial framework - a kind of long-term budget - which runs until 2020. Because of the way the EU budget process works, that would mean the UK would have to help pay for things like infrastructure projects in poorer EU countries several years after it had left the Union.

Security not a bargaining chip

- States that, whatever the outcome of the negotiations on the future European Union-United Kingdom relationship, they cannot involve any trade-off between internal and external security including defence co-operation, on the one hand and the future economic relationship, on the other hand;

I think this is probably cleared up by now, but the implied link between security co-operation and trade in Theresa May's Article 50 letter raised a few eyebrows elsewhere in the EU. Cooler heads suggested it was there for domestic consumption and the UK government said it was all a misunderstanding. But the parliament is putting down an explicit marker that trade-offs between security and the future economic relationship won't be acceptable.

EU standards to apply to trade deal

- Stresses that any future agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom is conditional on the UK's continued adherence to the standards provided by international obligations, including human rights and the Union's legislation and policies, in, among others, the field of the environment, climate change, the fight against tax evasion and avoidance, fair competition, trade and social rights, especially safeguards against social dumping;

The resolution suggests that the future relationship could be built upon an agreement under which the UK would have to accept EU standards over a wide range of policy areas from climate change to tax evasion. In some areas that might be exactly what the UK government wants to do anyway, given that the UK has played a leading role in forging those policy positions in the first place. But domestic politics in the UK means any wholesale acceptance of EU policies could be a tough sell.

Transition arrangements

- Believes that transitional arrangements ensuring legal certainty and continuity can only be agreed between the European Union and the United Kingdom if they contain the right balance of rights and obligations for both parties and preserve the integrity of the European Union's legal order, with the Court of Justice of the European Union responsible for settling any legal challenges; believes, moreover, that any such arrangements must also be strictly limited both in time - not exceeding three years - and in scope, as they can never be a substitute for European Union membership;

Two important points here. Firstly, the parliament is determined that the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice would continue to run during any transition period. The draft guidelines produced by the European Council last week made the same point but in less explicit language. If it wants a transition, the UK will have to accept a role for the ECJ. Secondly, the parliament says the transition should last no longer than three years, which is a shorter period than some might think necessary.

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