Mister President, Buongiorno,
Mister President of the Council,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
There is no better place to start the debate on our negotiations with the United Kingdom, than in the place where they are supposed to end in less than two years’ time.
In a defining and challenging moment for our Union, the role of this Parliament is more important than ever. You must scrutinise and validate the final agreement. No negotiation, no separation without representation.
This is the reason that from the very start I pushed this House to have a full and active role in the process.
I would like to thank and congratulate my friend Guy Verhofstadt and all parties involved for the speed and clarity of the resolution that you are voting on today.
I will not give a detailed response today on each point but given the cross-party support in this House, it is clear that we are on the same lines when it comes to the big issues.
And that is absolutely crucial. Because this is the time to stay united. This is the time to stay undivided.
During these negotiations, every one of our institutions and every one of our 27 Member States must be singing from the same hymn sheet. The stronger we are at 27, the stronger we will be in the negotiation.
You already know our chief negotiator Michel Barnier very well. But over the course of the next two years, you will become even more familiar with him.
I have to say before the start of the negotiations that he is doing a good job. Sometimes, not very often, I am taking wrong decisions. But one of the best decisions I have taken since I am President of the Commission was the appointment of Michel Barnier as our chief negotiator.
It is normal that your Parliament will have a say on the final deal.
But more importantly you are the checks and the balances during the negotiations themselves.
This is fundamentally a constitutional question for our Union: a third country cannot have the same benefits as a Member State. This Parliament must and will ensure that this reality is fully upheld over the course of the next two years.
We will of course negotiate in friendship and openness – not in a hostile mood – with a country that has brought so much to our Union and will remain close to our hearts long after they have left.
But this is now the time for reason over emotion.