19th Nov 2019


Brexit delay rolls into This WEEK

  • British PM Boris Johnson will push for a vote on general elections on Monday (Photo: Number 10 - Flickr)

Next week would have been a historic week with the UK leaving the EU, but that is unlikely to happen just now.

The remaining 27 member states agreed on Friday (25 October) on an extension, but postponed deciding how long to delay the 31 October Brexit deadline.

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As the European Parliament and most of the council of member states slides back into a comfortable autumn break, the EU-27 ambassadors will monitor events in London on Monday, as prime minister Boris Johnson pushes for snap elections on 12 December.

The ambassadors will meet early in the week. Member states want to decide by Tuesday on the extension.

It was France that pushed for a decision to be taken later on the length of the extension. Johnson asked for a dealy untul 31 January.

French president Emmanuel Macron hopes to put pressure on the House of Commons to back the withdrawal agreement clinched last week by the EU and the UK.

The EU's delay puts the leader of the opposition Labour, Jeremy Corbyn, in a difficult position.

He had said Labour would only vote in favour of a general election if the EU confirmed that it would grant an extension, taking no-deal Brexit off the table.

Johnson needs Labour's votes to go ahead with a general election, which can get a green light with a two-thirds majority of the MPs' votes.

Westminster lawmakers are expected to vote on Monday. The chances of enough MPs backing the motion appear uncertain for now.

Corbyn called on Johnson to go to parliament on Monday and rule out - to his "satisfaction" - a no-deal Brexit.

While British politicians waited for the EU to set the timeline, the EU-27 passed the ball back and insisted that the UK needed to set Brexit's course.

This awkward dance sent the pound slightly down against the euro by 0.4 percent.

Macron at the recent EU summit praised Johnson and said the British PM had been underestimated.

"He may be a colorful character sometimes, but we all are at times. He's got a temper, but he's a leader with a real strategic vision. Those who didn't take him seriously were wrong," the French president said after the meeting of EU leaders in Brussels.

New commissioners

But it is not only Brexit that is getting delayed.

European Commission president-elect Ursula von der Leyen and her team will take office one month later than planned.

And the delayed, 1 December start, might also be missed, as the Romanian government has still to nominate a new commissioner.

Von der Leyen will meet on Monday with new commissioner-nominees from France, Thierry Breton, and Hungary, Oliver Varhelyi.

The original candidates from France, Hungary, and Romania were rejected by the European Parliament.

Gas talks

On Monday, the EU, Ukraine, and Russia will hold trilateral gas talks once again to agree on transit of Russian gas to Europe through Ukraine.

In September, commission vice-president for the energy union, Maros Sefcovic, sounded upbeat at the end of the last round of discussions.

The current agreement expires in January.

The sides agreed that the contract will be based on EU law, but key issues remained, such as volumes, tariffs, and the duration of the future contract.

Throwback Tuesday

On Tuesday, two veterans of EU politics, commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and Martin Schulz, former president of the European Parliament, and brain behind the spitzenkandidaten system, will meet in Brussels.

Juncker will also receive Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic the same day. The EU's foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini will host a working dinner with the leaders of the six Western Balkan partners in Brussels in the evening.

The next day, enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn will meet Hashim Thaci, president of Kosovo.

North Macedonia and Albania, two Western Balkan countries, were snubbed by the EU last week as mainly France refused to agree to start accession talks with the two countries.

Nordic climate

Meanwhile, climate and sustainability will be top of the agenda when 87 members of Nordic parliaments and five Nordic prime ministers meet between Tuesday and Thursday in the Swedish parliament in Stockholm for the annual Nordic Council's 71 session.

A new strategy for co-operation on Nordic security has been worked out prior to the session, including closer cooperation between national emergency services, such as fire and rescue services, communication and police.

EU leaders spent just 12 minutes on climate

Climate change was part of the agenda of the EU leaders for Friday's summit. However, the council decided to finalise the EUʼs long-term strategy on climate change at its next meeting in December.

EU leaders to warn von der Leyen over 'giving in' to MEPs

The new commission president-elect Ursula von der Leyen will meet for the first time with EU leaders who nominated her for the job. She will be asked to lay out her plans for getting her commission through parliament.

Key moments for new commission This WEEK

MEPs will decide on Monday if they want the Hungarian commissioner-designate to come back for a second hearing, as commission president-elect Ursula von der Leyen hopes to finally take office on 1 December.

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