Brexit EU parliament chief wants boosted role for MEPs in talks

The outgoing US envoy to Brussels urged on Wednesday against a hard Brexit, saying it would be a "huge mistake".

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European Parliament President Martin Schulz makes a last statement at the end of his term at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France, on December 14, 2016 play

European Parliament President Martin Schulz makes a last statement at the end of his term at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France, on December 14, 2016

(AFP)
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European Parliament head Martin Schulz demanded Wednesday that the role laid out for MEPs in the Brexit negotiations be beefed up, threatening otherwise to reject any resulting deal.

In a letter to EU President Donald Tusk, Schulz criticised draft plans for the process that would relegate the parliament to "a secondary role in... Brexit negotiations."

If MEPs are indeed restricted to a less consequential part in the talks, the lawmakers could reject the final outcome of the negotiations.

Doing so would result in "EU treaties simply ceasing to apply to the UK at the end of the two year period," which is the time limit set for the negotiations.

"This would be the very hardest of Brexits and to the detriment of everybody," he said.

His concerns came on the eve of a one-day summit in Brussels that will bring together all the EU leaders including British Prime Minister Theresa May.

Schulz added the parliament could also draw up its own arrangements with the EU negotiator, Michel Barnier, and the British government.

"Do you want us to open separate negotiations with the British?," the parliament's lead Brexit negotiator, Guy Verhofstadt, asked on Wednesday.

The outgoing US envoy to Brussels urged on Wednesday against a hard Brexit, saying it would be a "huge mistake".

Ambassador Anthony Gardner said US manufacturing and service businesses would suffer from a hard Brexit, which means Britain leaving the EU single market.

"To send the message to London 'break free' 'take back control' 'forget the EU,' it would be an enormous mistake for US business, both for services and manufacturing businesses," he added.

"I hope we do not send the message to the UK that they should just break free and damn the consequences, because we should want to see a smooth orderly process in which both sides' interests are respected," Gardner said.

"And that would be my message to the incoming administration: there is another side, not just a UK side," the ambassador said.

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