As Brexit negotiations continue in Brussels, UK ministers are trying to resolve a conflict of interest issue between the country’s ministers and their counterparts in the European Parliament.
A spokesman for the European Council said in a statement on Monday that “any decision to introduce a mobile phone roaming fee in the UK must be approved by Parliament”.
“This is a crucial step for a free and open Europe,” the spokesman said.
The European Parliament has previously backed the idea of a roaming fee, arguing that mobile phone operators should not be forced to pay for data access, which can be used to “influence the public’s opinion on the issue of migration”.
However, the British government has made clear that it does not want to impose the fee on mobile operators, even though this is one of its major campaign pledges during the EU referendum campaign.
“We have said that we will seek to negotiate this agreement within the European Union and with all of our members,” a spokesperson for the Brexit department said.
“As part of our negotiation, we are seeking to strike a deal with our European partners that protects the rights of all citizens, protects our financial stability and enables us to focus on the future of our economy.”
“We do not want the EU to impose a fee on UK operators,” the spokesperson said.
A spokesperson for Brexit said the UK has already taken steps to implement the roaming fee as it is already one of the highest in the EU.
“The government has already introduced the roaming surcharge on mobile phones in Scotland and Northern Ireland,” the Brexit spokesperson said in response to questions.
“There are plans to introduce the same surcharge in Northern Ireland in the coming weeks.”
A spokesperson from the Scottish Government said: “We’re very clear that the Scottish Parliament is the place where we should discuss any changes to our EU-wide data roaming policy.
We are already working with our colleagues in Brussels on the implementation of this policy.”
“The UK government has not been in any way influenced by any of the proposals put forward by the EU in its Brexit negotiations.
As part of the negotiations, the UK government was not asked to accept any proposal that would impose any kind of new tax or surcharge,” the Scottish spokesman said in reply to questions from Al Jazeera.
“What we are proposing is a much more gradual transition of data roaming, which will enable more flexibility in the regulation of data use.”
Al Jazeera’s Rachid Abboud, reporting from Brussels, said that the EU is attempting to “put pressure on the UK” to impose an EU-level roaming fee.
“This kind of argument is a bit hypocritical given the fact that the UK was not even the first EU member state to introduce this kind of roaming policy, so we would expect the EU officials to be more in touch with the UK than they are,” he said.
Abbod said that a roaming policy would not help the UK in any other way.
“I think that the real problem is the fact it doesn’t work for other countries.
It doesn’t help us in the way that a data surcharge works for the United States,” he told Al Jazeera from Brussels.
“If we’re going to introduce something that will benefit the UK, it needs to be done in a way that will also benefit the rest of the EU.”
“This government has also not been involved in the debate on the data roaming bill, but they are now doing the same thing, they’re now saying that they’ll be supporting it in the next parliament, they’ll say it’s a positive thing,” Abboudd said.