Senior MEPs vow to exert maximum ‘pressure’ on Boris in threat to delay Brexit deal vote

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MEPs from the institution’s trade and foreign affairs committee will give their final recommendation on whether to endorse the future relationship pact. It comes amid growing anger in Brussels at the Prime Minister’s perceived role in the tensions in Northern Ireland. Sources say the powerful committees will recommend that MEPs back the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement when it is put to a ballot at a full plenary session later this month.

Talks will then be held next week inside the Conference of Presidents group of EU Parliament leaders to decide on when MEPs will vote on the trade and security treaty.

The future relationship pact is currently provisionally applied to allow for the UK and EU to take advantage of quota and tariff-free trade.

But it will not enter into full legal force until the EU finalises its ratification process, completed when MEPs vote finally on the deal.

One insider told that senior MEPs will hold off on announcing a date for the final ballot to maintain “pressure” on the talks over the Brexit divorce deal’s protocol to avoid a hard border.

Brussels was left furious when Downing Street announced it would unilaterally extend grace periods from EU red tape on trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

Brexit minister Lord Frost will travel to Brussels tomorrow for showdown talks with EU counterpart Maros Sefcovic.

MEPs believe refusing to vote on the agreement will ensure a resolution is found to the row over Northern Ireland.

But they also feel that by delaying the final ballot, they also maintain influence over the European Commission in the process of resolving future trade disputes with Britain.

The source said: “The committees will green-light the deal to show good faith but hold off on the plenary vote to put pressure on Frost and Sefcovic’s process.

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“But also to keep the pressure on the Commission regarding governance.”

Luxembourg MEP Christophe Hansen, a Brexit negotiator, said the vote could be “deferred due to the need for progress on roadmap for pragmatic yet full implementation” of the protocol.

He added: “Cool heads must prevail.”

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The EU has agreed to pause its legal action against Downing Street to allow for more time to find a resolution in the row over Northern Ireland.

A UK Government spokeswoman said: “In line with precedent that typically allows two months to respond to proceedings of this kind, we have agreed with the EU that we will respond to the Letter of Formal Notice by mid-May.

“We’ve been clear that the measures we have taken are lawful and part of a progressive and good-faith implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol.”

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