April 5, 2017 - 16:15 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - European Union lawmakers adopted a resolution on Wednesday, April 5 setting their red lines for the two-year divorce talks with Britain and rejected attempts by British MEPs to recognize Gibraltar's pro-EU stance in the Brexit referendum, Reuters reports.
In a display of EU unity, the legislature' text repeated the same priorities set by the EU summits' chair Donald Tusk in his draft negotiating guidelines released last week.
The European Parliament wants talks on Britain's future relations with the EU to start only after "substantial progress" is made on the bill for Brexit bill, on the Irish border, and on the rights of the 3 million EU citizens in Britain and the one million British residents in EU countries.
The text was backed by more than two-thirds of the deputies in the parliament, which will have to approve any deal with the United Kingdom.
Britain's Under Secretary for Brexit Robin Walker said this was "a positive move" although Britain would prefer to start trade talks as soon as possible. He told reporters at the session in Strasbourg that Britain will also put citizens' rights first in the Brexit process.
In a minor departure from Tusk's text, the parliament's resolution hinted at the possibility for Britain to reverse the Brexit process, stressing however that this would be possible only with the approval of all the remaining 27 member states.
"The door is open if Britain changes its mind," Gianni Pittella, head of the center-left grouping, the second largest in the parliament, told reporters. The Greens expressed a similar wish.
The move was aimed at strengthening the hand of the 48 percent of Britons who voted against Brexit in last year's referendum, but was opposed by the EU chief negotiator on Brexit, Michel Barnier, parliament officials said.
The conservative grouping, the largest in the legislature, tried to distance itself from such a statement, although they backed the resolution. "Leave means leave," the conservatives' leader Manfred Weber said.
The resolution also allowed transitional arrangements to smooth the UK's departure, but they should not last more than three years. MEPs also insisted that at the end of the process Britain cannot expect better conditions than when it was an EU member.