Brexit ultimatum: MEPs demand access to crunch Brexit conference as VDL issued warning

Mr Sassoli has written to Mrs von der Leyen, who as president of the European Commission is the EU’s highest-ranking official, stressed the importance of allowing MEPs to be directly involved in the event, which will focus on progress with the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement, the Northern Ireland Protocol and also citizens’ rights. The move is a likely indication of the urgency of with which Mr Sassoli and his colleagues are regarding the situation.

Italian MEP Mr Sassoli, described the Parliament is a “key player” in talks on international agreements, stressing its consent was a “precondition” for any final trade deal.

Including the Parliament would be a demonstration of “unity and support” for any deal, he said

With talks due to resume next week, the coronavirus pandemic has injected added urgency into the negotiations, the penultimate round of discussions prior to the July 1 deadline by which the EU and UK must decide whether to extend the Brexit transition period past December 31.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has insisted he will not delay the process any longer – but several senior figures, most recently Ireland’s Simon Coveney, have suggested the timetable is unrealistic in the midst of the ongoing health crisis.

The UK seems to be sticking to its guns, with a statement issued after a meeting of the Ireland/Northern Ireland Specialised Committee last month in which it said: “UK officials reaffirmed our commitment to complying with our legal obligations under the Northern Ireland Protocol, just as we expect the EU to comply with theirs.

“The UK was clear that our approach at all times will be focused on protecting the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and gains of the peace process, and on preserving Northern Ireland’s place in the UK.”

The UK has also ruled out EU plans for a Belfast office of the EU in Northern Ireland.

Speaking last week, David Collins Professor of International Economic Law at The City Law School, told Express.co.uk there was no chance of the transition period being extended beyond December 31, with UK negotiator David Frost likely to walk away rather than let that happen.

He said: “I believe very much that the June deadline holds true and that the UK should not, nor will they, seek an extension.

“Frost will likely walk away only at the very last moment in December when a path forward becomes impossible because with the EU they always seem to be willing to give ground and become more reasonable at the eleventh hour.”

As an example of a situation whereby Mr Frost would deem to pointless to carry on talking, Prof Collins said: “The UK would rightly walk away if the EU insisted on any one of: regulatory alignment, continued oversight of the ECJ, free movement or ongoing monetary contributions.

“These are the same red-lines that Theresa May outlined all those years ago in the Mansion House speech and they still apply.”

Asked during today’s coronavirus briefing about the possibility of a delay, Environment Secretary George Eustice was unequivocal.

He said: “We’re still going ahead with it.

“Brexit, in fact, is something that has already happened.

“We left the European Union at the end of January.

“We have a transition period that ends at the end of this year.

“We will still be ending that transition period on time as planned.

“We are still doing whatever planning is necessary to ensure that after that transition period, we can trade normally and function normally as a country.”

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