Thursday

21st Feb 2019

Agenda

Brexit and sanctions at EU summit This WEEK

  • London: Brexit clock ticking until November cut-off date for national ratifications (Photo: Davide D'Amico)

EU states hope to conclude a UK exit deal at a summit this week, with leaders' aides to meet in Brussels on Monday (15 October) already to keep the ball rolling on negotiations.

Michel Barnier, the EU negotiator, will then brief the 27 European affairs ministers on the latest developments on Tuesday, ahead of the Brexit summit talks on Thursday.

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  • Crime scene: UK accused Russia of using nerve toxin in Salisbury, England, to try to kill a former spy in March (Photo: Peter)

Barnier, last week, raised hope a deal was in the air, enabling all parties to proceed with national ratifications in November.

His offer - to keep either Northern Ireland or the whole of the UK in the EU customs union for now - is a red rag to a bull for hardline Brexiteers, however.

Details of the outline deal, which include stopping trucks on the Northern Irish border to scan bar codes and physical checks on animal products, might also anger Irish people.

The issue has raised concern on a return to violence after a decades-long sectarian conflict, which ended in 1998 and which was symbolised by British border watch-towers.

EU leaders will also call for progress on asylum law reform and the creation of a new EU border force to catch irregular migrants.

But they are not in a position to announce new decisions on the contentious law, according to draft conclusions, seen by EUobserver, dated 8 October.

Migration has seen Italy block rescue boats and threaten to withhold funds from the EU budget.

It has also seen Hungary and Poland boycott an EU deal on burden sharing, prompting EU court cases.

Leaders will agree to create a new sanctions for people who violate international chemical weapons bans, with an eye on Russia's recent use of a nerve toxin in the UK.

They might also discuss new sanctions on cyber criminals, with an eye on Russia's recent plot to hack the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, an international watchdog in The Hague.

Fish and trade

They will get the chance to mingle with leaders of Asian states, including Kazakhstan, Korea, Japan, and Singapore at an EU-Asia summit at the end of the week.

The event will see the EU sign a free-trade pact with Singapore, amid tensions on world markets prompted by a US tariff war.

Earlier in the week, EU foreign ministers will meet counterparts from the six former-Soviet countries in their eastern neighbourhood on Monday.

They will urge Macedonian MPs to back a name-change deal with Greece, opening Skopje's door to EU and Nato membership.

They will also urge Bosnian Serbs not to tear the federation apart after a pro-Russia nationalist won a recent election.

Agriculture ministers will the same day discuss fishing quotas in the Baltic Sea.

The figures are always hotly disputed by both fishermen and environmentalists.

Hot potato

But European affairs ministers will handle an even hotter potato the next day, when they discuss, on Tuesday, whether Hungary and Poland merit EU sanctions due to violations of EU values.

Veto-politics means they are unlikely to face direct punitive measures - the suspension of votes in the EU Council.

But the ministers will, also on Tuesday, discuss Europe's next long-term budget, amid talk that unruly EU club members ought to get less money in another form of punishment.

For their part, MEPs will, on Thursday, hold a hearing on whether EU passport sales by Cyprus, Malta, Hungary, and others are a gateway for financial crimes in the EU.

MEPs and EU officials will also meet US billionaire-philanthropist Bill Gates to discuss world poverty and climate change.

The visit comes after Bono, the U2 singer, weighed in on similar issues in Brussels last week.

Brexit deal 'within reach' says Barnier

Michel Barnier said the UK and the EU can close the withdrawal deal next week - if British prime minister Theresa May agrees to keep Northern Ireland in the customs union.

EU looks at Morocco and Tunisia to offload migrants

EU member states and the European Commission are pressing ahead with plans to possibly use Morocco and Tunisia as countries to offload asylum seekers and migrants - part of larger bid to create a so-called "safe third country" list.

Brexit and trip to Egypt for Arab League This WEEK

Brexit talks will continue in Brussels, as UK PM Theresa May's government is trying to find a way out of the political impasse at home. Murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi's fiancee will speak at the European Parliament next week.

Brexit votes set for This WEEK

Brexit looks to dominate news this week as British MPs gear up for a vote on how to break the internal deadlocks over the proposed deal with the European Union.

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