Monday

26th Aug 2019

Agenda

Brexit climax and Soros in Brussels This WEEK

  • A defaced poster of George Soros in Budapest last year. The Hungarian government one among several to have demonised Soros for funding aid for refugees (Photo: Lydia Gall/Human Rights Watch)

Brexit talks are set to climax at a special summit in Brussels on Sunday (25 November), when the 28 EU leaders give their political assent to a UK withdrawal contract and a much more loosely worded declaration on future relations.

The moment, barring 11th-hour snags on the future of Gibraltar or fishing rights, will mark the end of 18 months of negotiations.

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  • Theresa May likely to seal EU leaders' approval, but less sure of MPs' support back home (Photo: Number 10 - Flickr)

But it will still fall short of guaranteeing an orderly Brexit, amid concerns that rebel MPs in Britain's ruling minority Conservative party could try to bring down their leader or that the British parliament could vote down the deal in December.

The rest of the week is shaping up to be less eventful, but does bring a handful of VIP guests to the EU capital.

George Soros, the US philanthropist demonised by populists and anti-Semites on both sides of the Atlantic, will meet European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans on Monday.

Denis Mukwege and Nadia Mura, this year's Nobel peace laureates, will discuss gender and human rights in Africa with EU development ministers on Tuesday.

Lars Lokke Rasmussen, the Danish prime minister, will share his thoughts on the future of Europe with MEPs on Wednesday.

Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank, will also discuss VAT reform with MEPs on Monday.

Bank scandals

The deputies might want to throw in some extra questions on money laundering and tax evasion, amid recent scandals involving Denmark and Germany's largest banks.

But a special MEPs' committee, called Tax3, will also take a detailed look at the so-called 'cum-ex scandal' on Monday - a scam which saw EU taxmen defrauded of €55bn by British, French, German, and Spanish lenders and their clients.

The same committee will also discuss "aggressive tax planning" by multinationals with EU financial affairs commissioner Pierre Moscovici the next day.

The scientists who sat on the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change - the most authoritative body dealing with climate change - will meet MEPs on the environment committee on Monday.

UN and EU migration experts and those from the International Migration Organisation will also discuss the situation in Libya with the civil liberties committees on Tuesday.

In other events, youth and culture ministers will discuss how to help integrate young refugees into European society and how to stop fake news on Monday and Tuesday.

A mixed bag of EU ministers meeting in the competitiveness council on Thursday and Friday will also discuss the future of the EU's space programme and cohesion funds - funds to poorer regions, such as those in Hungary and Poland, which could face cuts due to the two countries' recent anti-European behaviour.

Juncker and MBS

Meanwhile, away from Brussels, EU Council and European Commission heads Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker will mingle with Saudi Arabia's Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud (often shortened to MBS) at the G20 summit in Argentina starting Thursday.

The controversial decision to invite MBS, suspected of ordering the murder and dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, has failed to prompt boycotts so far.

UK and EU draft 'letter to Santa' on future relations

A draft accord on future UK-EU ties envisaged "ambitious, broad, [and] deep" trade relations, but lacked detail, including on Gibraltar and fisheries - 48 hours before Sunday's emergency summit.

Hungary to push ahead with 'Stop Soros' law on NGOs

The Hungarian government of Viktor Orban has said it will not wait until Friday, to hear a verdict of European legal experts on human rights, before going ahead with its bill curtailing NGOs who work with migrants.

EU goes on holiday as new UK PM arrives This WEEK

Boris Johnson is almost certain to become the UK's next prime minister, and oversee Brexit until the 31 October deadline, as work in the EU bubble is winding down for the summer.

Von der Leyen vote the focus This WEEK

MEPs will vote to confirm - or not - on Tuesday the new commission president, Ursula von der Leyen - a candidate put forward at the last minute by the EU leaders, and grilled by lawmakers recently in Brussels.

Von der Leyen and Greece in focus This WEEK

The EU parliament committees will start their work, as MEPs reflect on approving Ursula von der Leyen as new commission chief. Meanwhile, Greek is about to take a conservative turn.

News in Brief

  1. Ocean Viking to disembark in Malta after ordeal
  2. Germany joins France in world outcry on Brazil fires
  3. British people lose faith in Brexit deal
  4. Brexit hardliners want further changes to EU deal
  5. German manufacturers confirm fear of recession
  6. Belgian socialists and liberals scrap over EU post
  7. Fall in EU migration leading to UK skills shortages
  8. Switzerland makes post-Brexit flight preparations

Investigation

The EU committee's great 'per diem' charade

Around 30 members of European Economic Social Committee, who live and work primarily in Brussels or nearby, have claimed €1.47m in a 'daily subsistence' allowance from European taxpayers to cover accommodation, food and local transport for meetings held in Brussels.

EU ends silence on Hong Kong protests

The EU, in league with Canada, has spoken out on the Hong Kong protests after months of silence in what one expert called "a clear expression of support for the protesters".

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