European Union Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt says there are still issues with Britain’s latest Withdrawal Agreement that must be fixed before it can be ratified.
In an update to the European Parliament’s Constitutional Affairs Committee, Verhofstadt said “problems need to be solved” before it can be recommended to member states for approval.
In particular, he said, there were concerns about the proposed independent monitoring authority for citizens’ rights that will safeguard EU nationals in the UK following Brexit.
Verhofstadt said the body would be run by appointees chosen by Britain’s Home Office. “If that is independent, I don’t believe in it,” he said, adding that it was among the issues that would have to be “sorted out with our UK counterparts”.
He also poured doubt on prospects for a future UK-EU trade agreement, saying it would only be possible if Britain agreed "on regulatory alignment, on respecting labour standards, social standards and environmental standards of the European Union, on the level playing field in general".
The new deal negotiated with Boris Johnson was “mainly a copy of the previous agreement” struck with former Prime Minister Theresa May, he said — a comment that will be viewed as a political gift to hardline Brexiteers.
He said he was “a little bit disappointed” at the “less ambitious” and “more narrow” scope of the political declaration in the deal, which deals with future UK-EU relations.
Verhofstadt also joked about the British political chaos, telling MEPs: “Nobody can even follow anymore what is happening. I’m always saying if Netflix has to make a series about [this] you cannot compete with what is happening on the ground.”
He also joked that he had received a “positive” email from Brexiteer and former UKIP MEP Gerard Batten. “So I did something wrong, I think.”