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Summary

  1. European Parliament approves its red lines for the Brexit negotiations
  2. Assembly will not participate directly in talks but must approve final deal
  3. Final motion backs time-limiting any transitional arrangements to three years
  4. MEPs debate EU-wide cap on the wholesale price of mobile roaming data
  5. They also discuss whether to approve an EU visa waiver for Ukrainians

Live Reporting

By Paul Seddon

All times stated are UK

Goodnight & Coming up tomorrow

And with that, tonight's sitting comes to a close.

MEPs will be back tomorrow from 08.00 BST, when they will debate EU efforts to tackle anti-Roma discrimination.

They will also debate and vote on three topical human rights motions.

From 11.00 BST, they will vote on whether to approve an EU visa waiver for Ukrainians.

They will also hold a final vote on an EU-wide cap on the wholesale price of mobile roaming data. 

MEPs debate UN conference on status of women

UN headquarters in New York
AFP

Finally tonight, MEPs are debating the outcome of a UN conference on the status of women held last month in New York.

Before the conference, the European Parliament approved a motion proposing that the EU makes five areas its priorities.

These included reducing barriers to women in the jobs market and a focus on helping marginalised women.

The women’s rights committee has tabled an oral question to ask how these points were taken into account.

Commission: Coalition refusal risks political stability

Debate on Macedonia's EU application

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Neven Mimica
BBC

International Development Commissioner Neven Mimica tells MEPs that the political situation in Macedonia, which is a "very serious concern". 

He says that President Ivanov's refusal to grant a mandate a coalition of Social Democrats and ethnic Albanian parties risks undermining the stability of the country. 

He adds that "inflammatory" inter-ethnic rhetoric must end. 

He urges Macedonia to continue the EU's suggested judicial reforms, and says that the country's co-operation over migration will not mean the bloc "turn a blind eye" to democratic shortcomings. 

MEPs debate Macedonia EU application

MEPs are now debating a report from the foreign affairs committee on Macedonia’s EU membership application.

Macedonia became an official candidate for membership in 2005 but the EU has yet to start accession talks with the country.

The former Yugoslav republic has been in political crisis for two years following a phone-tapping scandal.

December's general elections were brought forward two years as part of a Western-brokered agreement, but failed to produce an outright winner. 

Protests in Skopje
EPA
Skopje recently saw protests against attempts by social democrats to forge a coalition with ethnic Albanian parties

What is the Privacy Shield?

Data servers
Reuters

In February 2016, the EU and US agreed a new pact to make it easy for organisations to transfer data across the Atlantic.

Key points of the agreement are:

  • the US will create an ombudsman to handle complaints from EU citizens about Americans spying on their data
  • the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence will give written commitments that Europeans' personal data will not be subject to mass surveillance
  • the EU and US will conduct an annual review to check the new system is working properly    

MEPs debate motion critical of data sharing pact

MEPs are now debating a non-binding motion which criticises data protection standards in the new EU-US data-sharing agreement.

The “Privacy Shield” agreement replaces an arrangement known as Safe Harbour, which was struck down in October 2015 after leaks showed data was subject to US surveillance.

The new agreement is up for a review this summer.

MEPs’ motion, which will not be binding on the European Commission, will be put to a vote tomorrow morning. 

Visa waiver 'sign of support' for Ukraine - MEP

Debate on visa waiver for Ukraine

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Croatian social democrat Tonico Picula says he is glad the visa waiver is up for a final vote tomorrow. 

Granting visa-free travel is a "real sign of support to Ukraine and its citizens", he adds. 

Dutch Liberal Hans van Baalen also signals his support, telling MEPs that Ukraine has met all the criteria and the country should not be "punished" for being a victim of "Russian aggression". 

Hans van Baalen
BBC

Commissioner: Waiver will strengthen EU-Ukraine ties

Debate on visa waiver for Ukraine

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Vera Jourova
BBC

Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova says it has been a "long process" but Ukraine has met all of the relevant EU conditions for obtaining a waiver on visa requirements. 

She adds that respect for these criteria will, especially obligations to tackle organised crime, will be closely monitored by the Commission. 

The visa waiver will prove an "essential contribution" to strengthening "cultural and economic ties" between the EU and Ukraine, she adds. 

MEPs debate visa waiver for Ukraine

Security checks at Helsinki airport
Reuters

MEPs are now debating plans to waive visa requirements for Ukrainian citizens travelling to the EU.

The visa waiver, due to be put to a final vote tomorrow, would give holders of biometric passports the right to travel for up to three months without needing a visa.

The new measure will not give Ukrainians the automatic right to work in the EU. It will apply to all member states except the UK and Ireland.

It follows the approval of new EU emergency powers to suspend visa-free travel rights last December.

The new powers allow either the Commission or a majority of EU states to suspend a country’s visa exemptions if there is a large increase in asylum requests. 

Sitting resumes

Debate on cap on wholesale price for mobile data

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Gunnar Hokmark
BBC

After a brief interlude, MEPs take their seats again and continue with the sitting. 

Acting chair Boguslaw Liberadzki tells them that it is not clear what caused the alarm, but that MEPs “certainly weren’t in any danger”.

As the debate continues, Swedish centre-right MEP Gunnar Hokmark gives his backing to the new cap, arguing that it will take Europe's digital market to "a new level". 

Another centre-right MEP, Poland's Dariusz Rosati, says he is glad the legislation is nearing completion given it faced "opposition" from some telecoms companies. 

"It was a long road but it was worth taking," he adds. 

Alarm suspends sitting

European Parliament

Strasbourg

It appears that the sitting has been suspended - due to an alarm. 

Plenary
BBC

UKIP MEP warns of 'unintended consequences'

Debate on cap on wholesale price for mobile data

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Roger Helmer
BBC

David Borrelli, from Italy's Five Star movement, says that telecoms companies might try to compensate for lost revenue by charging extra for services at a national level.

UKIP's Roger Helmer makes a similar point, warning that the policy to abolish roaming fees will have "unintended consequences" that "come back to bite us in the ankle". 

He puts the "cynical pursuit" of the measure down to an attempt from the EU's institutions to generate "positive headlines".  

What are wholesale data prices?

Debate on cap on wholesale price for mobile data

Telephone line
BBC

Wholesale charges are the fees telecoms operators must pay for using other companies' networks.

They are an underlying charge behind the roaming charges, which users pay when connecting to an operator based abroad. 

The new caps have to be low enough for operators to be able to offer fee-free roaming to customers without putting up domestic prices, but high enough so they can recover their costs.

There should also be enough money in the system for continuing maintenance and upgrading of networks. 

Commissioner urges backing for legislation

Debate on cap on wholesale price for mobile data

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Andrus Ansip
BBC

Digital Single Market Commissioner Andrus Ansip urges MEPs to give their final backing to the new legislation when it is put to a vote tomorrow. 

Without it, he adds, "many operators" will not be able to get rid of roaming charges without also raising their domestic prices. 

The roaming ban will have an "immediate positive impact" for consumers, he says, as well as promoting a "more vibrant" single market in the digital sphere.

MEP: Parliament has 'taken side of citizens'

Debate on cap on wholesale price for mobile data

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Miapetra Kumpula-Natri
BBC

Finnish social democrat Miapetra Kumpula-Natri, who has acted as Parliament's lead negotiator on the legislation, says the roaming charges ban has been a "longstanding priority" for MEPs. 

From the middle of June, she says, people within the EU will be able to "call friends from the beach" without the "fear or surcharges". 

During the negotiations, she says, the Parliament has sought to take the side of "citizens and smaller operators". 

MEPs begin debate on mobile data price cap

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Man using mobile phone
PA

MEPs are now debating legislation that would cap the price of wholesale roaming charges that telecoms companies can charge each other for mobile data.

The new law is part of measures accompanying a total ban on roaming charges within the EU which is due to come into effect from June.

The European Parliament has pushed for a lower cap on the price of data and voice calls than that originally proposed by the EU Commission.

Some telecoms companies as well as European countries with lots of tourist destinations wanted a higher cap, arguing the money would be invested into improving the networks.

MEPs have found a compromise with national ministers on the new caps, which will be put to a vote tomorrow.

MEP urges legal limits on news 'manipulation'

Debate on impact of 'fake news'

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Czech Liberal Pavel Telicka says the fight against fake news is "not just a national task", and he is glad the European Commission is "looking into it".

He says there should be a "range of tools" for identifying false information online. 

German Christian democrat Elmar Brok says that new forms of media were meant to lead to new forms of expression but have increasingly become "instruments of manipulation". 

"Limits have to be placed on this manipulation - and that must come through the law", he adds. 

Elmar Brok
BBC
Brexit: Nigel Farage says EU behaving like the mafia
There have been sharp exchanges in the European parliament over Britain's exit from the EU.

MEP warns of 'movement against expert opinion'

Debate on impact of 'fake news'

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Charles Tannock
BBC

Conservative MEP Charles Tannock says that much fake news is the latest iteration of "populist propaganda".

He adds that attacks on a "metropolitan elite" are part of a "wider movement against expert opinion".

MEPs express censorship concerns

Debate on impact of 'fake news'

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Italian Lega Nord Matteo Salvini accuses other members of the European Parliament of wishing to "gag Facebook" and "reinventing the Ministry of Truth".

He says there is an effort to "ban" dissenting viewpoints, adding: "long live Facebook". 

Conservative MEP Andrew Lewer says he worries that the fight against "hate speech" can "inadvertently" lead to censorship if mishandled.

Andrew Lewer
BBC

Commission 'assessing' need for further powers

Debate on impact of 'fake news'

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Andrus Ansip
BBC

Digital Single Market Commissioner Andrus Ansip tells MEPs that politicians have a duty to "uphold fundamental values", including democracy and the freedom of expression.  

He says the "proliferation of hate speech online" is "shirking" the space for democratic discussion. 

He adds that the Commission is "assessing" whether EU-wide procedures are needed in the area of removing illegal online conduct. 

He says a decision will be announced next month as part of a review of the EU's digital single market  strategy. 

MEP: EU should consider legislation against 'fake news'

Debate on impact of 'fake news'

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Tanja Fajon
BBC

Slovenian social democrat Tanja Fajon tells MEPs that the debate on fake news is timely given the "rise in populism and xenophobia".

She adds that the problem is "as old as the press itself" but the phenomenon has been aggravated by social media, with six out of 10 news articles online being shared without being read first. 

She calls on social media firms to do more in this area, and says the EU should "explore the possibility of legislative intervention" in this area. 

Fake news: Too important to ignore

By Amol Rajan, BBC Media Editor

BBC News UK

Fake news is nothing new, depending on what you mean by it.

But during the past year - specifically during Donald Trump's election - it has become a cancer in the body politic, growing from an isolated but malignant tumour into a raging, mortal threat.

Read more

MEPs to debate impact of 'fake news'

Welcome back to coverage of this plenary sitting of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

First up this afternoon MEPs are going to be debating the phenomenon of “fake news” with Digital Single Market Commissioner Andrus Ansip. 

He has previously said he wants Facebook and other social media firms to make greater efforts to tackle fake news stories online.

He has added that self-regulation could also be accompanied by “some kind of clarification” from the EU. 

Person using a laptop
PA

Watch: EU chief 'twiddles on phone' in debate

Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier is told by an Ulster Unionist MEP to "actually listen to the speech". 

Voting ends

European Parliament

Strasbourg

That’s today’s voting session finished. MEPs will now have the opportunity to make short speeches to explain how they voted.

After this the sitting will resume at 14.00 BST with a debate on what the EU’s response should be to the phenomenon of “fake news”. 

MEPs approve EU disaster relief funding

Voting session

European Parliament

Strasbourg

In other votes, MEPs also sign off on a decision to grant several millions euros’ worth of emergency aid from the EU’s Solidarity Fund.

The money is meant to be used to repair damaged housing and infrastructure in the wake of natural disasters.

The package includes:

  • €60m for the UK, for the floods in December 2015 and January 2016
  • €7m for Cyprus after droughts and forest fires in 2015 and 2016
  • €3.9m for Portugal to cope with the wild fires in Madeira last year 
Cumbria floods
Getty Images
Cumbria was among the areas hit by floods in late 2015

Strong support signalled

European Parliament spokesman tweets

Press conference to follow

Parliament's chief Brexit spokesman Guy Verhofstadt and Parliament President Antonio Tajani will be giving a press conference shortly on the result of the vote. 

You can watch it here

MEPs pass motion on Brexit red lines

Voting session

European Parliament

Strasbourg

The European Parliament approves a motion setting out its position on the forthcoming Brexit negotiations by 516 votes to 133 with 50 abstentions.

MEPs will not participate directly in exit talks but must ratify the final deal. 

A series of amendments to the main motion – mostly tabled by UKIP – were rejected.

The resolution backs the “phased” approach to negotiation favoured by EU leaders, and says the UK should be considered liable for financial commitments it made as a member.

It says any transitional arrangements should be time-limited to three years and overseen by the EU’s Court of Justice.

It also says:

  • UK citizens in the EU and EU citizens in Britain should receive “reciprocal” treatment
  • the final deal should not include a “trade-off” between trade and security co-operation
  • the UK should adhere to EU environmental and anti-tax evasion standards to get close trade ties
  • the European Banking Authority and European Medicines Agency should be moved out of London
  • the UK should pay towards costs for the EU that “arise directly from its withdrawal”

Voting soon

European Parliament

Strasbourg

That’s the debate on the European Parliament’s red lines for Brexit talks finished.

The draft motion drawn up by four political groups will be the first item to be voted on, before voting on other motions and on legislation takes place. 

Farage: UK could 'give' over rights of EU citizens

Debate on Brexit negotiations

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Nigel Farage
BBC

The debate swings back to the political group leaders, and UKIP leader Nigel Farage speaks for the second time. 

He tells MEPs that the demands for a large exit bill from the UK "just doesn't work" and has "gone so far".

Reaching a deal will require "give and take" on both sides, he adds, before suggesting that if the EU "gave" on the issue of money and Gibraltar, the UK should be prepared to "unilaterally guarantee" the rights of EU citizens to stay in Britain after Brexit. 

Liberal group leader Parliament's chief Brexit spokesman Guy Verhofstadt uses his second speech to call for a "huge majority" when the motion is shortly put to the vote. 

European Parliament 'at best and worst'

Former Lib Dem MEP tweets:

MEP calls for 'professionalism' in talks

Debate on Brexit negotiations

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Gyorgy Schopflin
BBC

Gyorgy Schopflin, from the ruling Fidesz party in Hungary, warns that Parliament's motion today will "not be popular" and that some in the UK see leaving the EU as a "kind of liberation".

"It can take quite a while for illusions to dissipate", he tells MEPs. 

He says that although the triggering of Article 50 has seen a "silly season" of comments, the Parliament should "stay calm" and pursue talks will the same "professionalism" shown in the motion. 

German MEP calls on UK to pay for budget commitments

Debate on Brexit negotiations

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Jens Geier
BBC

Jens Geier, a German social democrat who sits on the Parliament's budgets committee, says the UK must be expected to respect commitments to the EU budget it has already made. 

The commitments were made by the UK government, which was "investing in a political alliance", he says, before adding: 

You can't go into an English pub, have several rounds of drinks and a slap-up meal and walk out without paying the bill"

Willmott: 'No dealers' have no answers

Debate on Brexit negotiations

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Glenis Willmott
BBC

Glenis Willmott, who leads the group of Labour MEPs in the Parliament, says that MEPs should "give a voice" to those directly affected by Brexit.

She accuses the right wing of the Conservative party of "clamouring to use Brexit" to bring about a "bonfire of EU workers' rights". 

She adds that those threatening to walk out of the EU without a deal have "no answers to the questions that constructive questions will bring". 

Farage's comments

PA tweets

Gibraltar MEP: Howard lacked 'basic standards of diplomacy'

Debate on Brexit negotiations

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Molly Scot Cato
BBC

Green MEP Molly Scot Cato, whose constituency includes Gibraltar, says that she will "fight for their right to self-determination". 

She criticises the recent comments  from former Conservative leader Michael Howard suggesting Theresa May would defend Gibraltar in the same way as Margaret Thatcher defended the Falklands.

His remarks were "sadly symbolic of the loss of commitment to peace and to basic standards of diplomacy", she adds.