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French warn UK ahead of vote on Brexit trade deal

French warn UK ahead of vote on Brexit trade deal thumbnail

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image captionEU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen oversees trade relations with the UK

The European Parliament is expected to ratify the post-Brexit EU-UK trade deal, amid tensions including a French threat of reprisals against the UK.

The Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA) has been operating provisionally since January and is expected to be ratified by MEPs later on Tuesday.

French Europe Minister Clément Beaune accused the UK of blocking fishing rights. He said the EU could respond with “reprisals” in financial services.

The TCA covers EU-UK trade in goods.

It means goods – but not services – can be traded free of tariffs or quotas. The UK economy is dominated by services.

The TCA has still resulted in more paperwork, extra costs and less trade between the two sides, since the UK left the EU.

There are tensions over the UK’s unilateral decision to ease trading rules for Northern Ireland.

Under a separate protocol, Northern Ireland remains de facto part of the EU’s single market, so goods arriving there from Britain have to undergo EU checks.

France’s Europe Minister Clément Beaune threatened reprisals in sectors such as financial services if the UK failed to implement agreements on fishing in full.

The UK made fishing rights a key issue in the negotiations, with control over access to its waters seen as a sign of British sovereignty.

Mr Beaune warned that France could hold up approvals for British financial service operators to work in the EU.

“The United Kingdom is expecting quite a few authorisations from us for financial services. We won’t give any for as long as we don’t have guarantees on fishing and other issues,” he said on French news channel BFMTV.

French fishermen have complained of being prevented from operating in British waters because of difficulties in obtaining licences.

media captionIs the point-scoring coming to an end – or have we only seen the first half of this grudge match?

Brexit ‘a lose-lose situation’

In the European Parliament, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said Brexit was a divorce and a warning of the feelings of the people: “It’s a failure of the European Union and we have to learn lessons from it.”

German MEP David McAllister said Brexit “will always be a lose-lose situation”, but he called on fellow MEPs to ratify the TCA.

The first four months of trade under the TCA have been defined by less trade between EU and UK and often a distinct lack of cooperation, BBC Europe correspondent Nick Beake reports.

The European Commission has launched legal action, accusing the UK of breaching the agreement on Northern Ireland trade and breaking international law – charges Downing Street denies.

Two key committees of the European Parliament have already overwhelming backed the TCA. But a draft resolution will invite MEPs to declare the UK’s exit from the EU an “historic mistake”.

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