Sunday

5th Feb 2023

Agenda

Brexit nail-biter and EU nominations This WEEK

  • Boris Johnson's meeting in Ireland raised hopes (Photo: Parsons_Boris_whitehall-1069)

British prime minister Boris Johnson will meet the 27 other EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday (17 October) to try to clinch a last-minute Brexit deal.

The summit comes just two weeks before the UK crashes out of Europe with no legal framework to regulate trade relations, security cooperation, travel arrangements or residents' rights in place in a nightmare scenario for both sides.

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British leaks on Johnson's phone call with German chancellor Angela Merkel a few days ago suggested the two sides were too far apart to agree.

But Johnson's meeting with the Irish leader on Thursday raised optimism that a way could be found to share the circle of returning to full British sovereignty in Northern Ireland while keeping the Irish border open and the peace process there on track.

Foreign ministers and EU affairs ministers meeting in Luxembourg on Monday and Tuesday might give signs of how the Brexit talks are evolving.

But the foreign ministers will also have their plate full as they ponder how to stop Turkey from massacring Kurds in Syria and enflaming a conflict which has already sent millions of refugees to Europe.

They will also discuss how to stop Turkey from drilling for gas in Cypriot maritime zones.

And they will meet Ukraine's foreign minister amid concern that the new government in Kiev is preparing to capitulate to Russian demands on making a deal with Russia's puppet authorities in east Ukraine for the sake of peace.

Meanwhile, the EU affairs ministers are preparing to disappoint Albania and North Macedonia on Tuesday.

EU institutions had recommenced opening accession talks with the two Western Balkans states, not least to reward North Macedonia for changing its name to appease Greece.

But France is reportedly planning to veto the idea on grounds the EU is not ready to take in new members and that Skopje and Tirana have not done enough on reforms.

All that still leaves the European Commission nomination process up in the air.

The European Parliament was meant to have approved the 26 commissioner candidates early this week prior to a formal vote on 23 October.

But three of them - from France, Hungary, and Romania - were rejected on grounds of financial wrongdoing and the commission president, Ursula von der Leyen does not have firm alternatives yet.

The rejection of the French candidate has also pit Europe's main political groups against each other and caused bad blood between France and Germany, in feelings that risk spilling out further into the open when the EU leaders meet.

Johnson finally unveils UK's Brexit border 'compromise'

British PM Boris Johnson proposes regulatory alignment between the EU and Northern Ireland to avoid most of the checks at the border, but wants the province to leave the EU's customs union when the UK does.

Fears on migration plus Ukraine summit this WEEK

MEPs are expected to present their migration and asylum priorities on Wednesday (1 February), before EU leaders will focus on the issue at the 9-10 February special European Council.

New sanctions and democracy in focus This WEEK

On Monday, Brussels will see EU foreign affairs ministers focusing on a 10th sanctions package against Russia, a special tribunal, and preparing the EU-Ukraine summit on 3 February in Kyiv.

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