President Metsola opens the first EU-UK Parliamentary Partnership Assembly 

The first meeting of the EU-UK Parliamentary Partnership Assembly was held at the European Parliament in Brussels. Opening the assembly, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola spoke about the importance that the partnership between the European Union and the United Kingdom is based on trust and unity.

© European Union |  European Parliament President Roberta Metsola addressing the EU-UK Parliamentary Partnership Assembly

Honourable Chair Loiseau,
Honourable Chair Heald,
Honourable Members of the EU-UK Parliamentary Partnership Assembly,
Dear Europeans,

Before we get started, I would like to commemorate the legacy of The late Right Honourable Lord PLUMB, for whom this House observed a minute of silence, last week in Strasbourg: in honour of his commitment to the European Parliament and to European democracy, as a long serving elected member. And in honour of his achievements as President of the European Parliament from 1987 to 1989.

A book of condolences in memory of Lord Henry Plumb is available for signature in front of this meeting room. 

Today, it is an honour for me to welcome UK parliamentarians here. And it is an honour for me to open the first EU-UK Parliamentary Partnership Assembly established under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement here at the European Parliament.

Europe faces unprecedented challenges today. And in this context, I am glad to see many familiar faces in this room - seeing, as many UK delegates are former MEPs. We know each other very well already. This is great. This will allow this assembly to hit the road running and will allow us to tackle - together as allies - a threat to European values that has emerged from Putin’s illegal military invasion of Ukraine. 

Recent weeks have shown that there is huge potential for reinforcing our relations, in particular on foreign policy and security - the UK being a leader with regard to supporting Ukraine. 

Our joint action and outreach have united us.

Unquestionably, it is in both our interest to maintain a close and lasting cooperation in addressing common additional challenges with regard to economics, trade, financial services and energy in an increasingly unstable world. 

We are aligned against adversity on so many issues.

When I met President Zelenskyy in Kyiv last month: while outside the streets were dead, while every minute the threat of shelling loomed, I was struck by how alive the Ukrainian Rada was inside. How remarkably alive parliamentary democracy was.

Today marks a new beginning in our EU-UK partnership. I wish for debates in this new Parliamentary Partnership Assembly to also be alive, thriving and fruitful in coming up with joint solutions to joint problems. 

For this, we need trust. We need to remember how much unites us. And we must refrain from unilateral actions that would undermine our unity and our Western partnership against Russian aggression. 

With regard to Northern Ireland today, as a lawyer I say: that the United Kingdom’s territorial integrity is fundamentally undisputed. This is not in question. This is understood, regardless of the outcome of the recent elections. Likewise, legally binding international agreements are law. They must be adhered to. The 1998 Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement that brokered Peace after years of life-threatening troubles is law. All legal agreements to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, whilst protecting the integrity of the EU Single Market, must be respected. Renegotiating the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland is not an option for the European Union. On this all the European Union institutions are aligned. The European Parliament has reiterated its unwavering support for the Protocol on several occasions. We remain fully committed to preserving the peace on the island of Ireland.

But if points of contention remain around the Protocol and around the European Commission’s October 2021 proposals, it is our job here to help iron them out and to jointly find workable and flexible solutions for the people and businesses in Northern Ireland and in fact for EU citizens and business in the Republic of Ireland too.

This House whole-heartedly respects the democratic voice of people. We believe in parliamentary democracy. With this in mind, we hope that going forward, all democratically elected Northern Ireland representatives will find a way to dialogue together in a Belfast Parliament designed for this purpose.

We also believe that this Parliamentary Partnership Assembly has a true role to play in monitoring and implementing our mutual Trade and Cooperation Agreement. As parliamentarians from the EU and the UK, we are responsible for keeping communication flows between our respective constituencies open. 

Democratic debate and accountability are key.

And, the EU and the UK are friends with the same interests at heart.

At the European Parliament, we value the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. We value close cooperation with you, so that with your expertise, we may together address today and tomorrow’s threats that are unfolding. Above all, we wish to maintain a positive and stable relationship with the United Kingdom.

Without further ado, let us kick-off these 2-day Parliamentary-Assembly meetings. Let our Parliaments embark on a trustful and lasting partnership.

Thank you for listening.