Next week will be a plenary week in the European Parliament.  Members of the European Parliament (“MEPs”) will gather virtually and in person in Brussels.  Several interesting votes and debates are scheduled to take place.

On Tuesday, the plenary is set to finally ratify the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (“TCA”), the extensive free trade agreement that has governed the relationship between the EU and UK provisionally since January 1, 2021, and will lapse on April 30, 2021.  The leadership of the European Parliament postponed the ratification twice, pending reassurance of the United Kingdom that they would fully implement the deal.  The Parliament decided to postpone the vote for the first time when the UK decided to extend unilaterally the grace period by six months on post-Brexit customs checks between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.  The TCA and Northern Ireland Protocol (“NPC”) secure an open border on the island of Ireland and tariff-free trade between the EU and UK.  To achieve this, the UK would also levy EU tariffs on goods from third countries that are “at risk” of going from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, but are sold in the EU.  According to the MEPs, cooperation of the UK in implementing the TCA and NPC is therefore crucial.  Covington published an alert on the main elements of the TCA, here.

On Wednesday, MEPs will debate with Josep Borrell, High Representative of the EU, on the recent sanctions that China imposed on multiple MEPs and other European entities.  China decided to apply these sanctions the day after the Council of the EU adopted further sanctions on four Chinese officials accused of complicity in human rights violations in Xinjiang.  The crossfire is emblematic of the souring of the relations between China and the West, which may delay or diminish the chances of the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investments.  Covington published a blog post on these developments, here.

On Thursday, the plenary is scheduled to adopt the Regulation on Addressing the Dissemination of Terrorist Content Online.  The Regulation, which took over two and a half years to negotiate, would establish rules on how to moderate terrorist content on internet platforms.  Platforms would be required to remove or disable access to flagged content within one hour.  Terrorist content includes text, images, videos, etc. that incite, solicit or contribute to terrorist offenses.  However, content for educational, journalistic, research purposes, etc. would be exempted.  Platforms are not obliged to use automated tools or filter content, but will have to publish annual transparency reports on their measures taken to counter the dissemination of terrorist content.  The Council has adopted the political agreement that was reached in early second reading interinstitutional negotiations on March 16, 2021.  The plenary is set to adopt this same position next week.  The position is available here.

For the complete agenda and overview of the meetings, please see here.