Give Britain Ukraine-style association deal, say MEPs

Strasbourg (France) (AFP) - The EU should offer Britain an "association agreement" after Brexit, similar to the ones it has with Ukraine or Georgia, European legislators said Wednesday.

The European Parliament passed a resolution saying an association agreement based on four key areas -- trade, foreign policy and security, internal security and "thematic" cooperation -- could form the basis for ties with Britain when it leaves the bloc next year.

Britain wants a wide-ranging free trade deal, but Brussels has warned it will not be allowed to "pick and mix" the benefits of EU membership and will suffer some hardship as a result of quitting the bloc.

"An association agreement negotiated and agreed between the EU and the UK... could provide an appropriate framework for the future relationship," said the motion, passed by 544 votes to 110 with 51 abstentions.

It called for the creation of a "coherent and solid governance system" to oversee the agreement, with a mechanism for resolving any disputes that arise.

The European Parliament's Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt said Tuesday that talks he held with the British government last week had left him confident London would "see the advantages of such an approach".

The proposal restates many of the EU's existing negotiating "red lines" with the UK, notably that any free trade deal must avoid so-called "cherry picking" -- Britain agreeing to follow some EU rules but not others.

And the text warned against a race to the bottom on regulatory standards.

Access to the EU market would be conditional on Britain respecting EU regulations on food safety, animal welfare, and pesticides, the motion said.

EU leaders have been pressing May to clarify what she wants before they agree their position on the future economic partnership at a summit later this month.

A series of speeches by May and her senior ministers have done little to satisfy Brussels.

On Tuesday European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that with just a year to go before Britain leaves the bloc, the time had come to "translate speeches into treaties".