Friday

24th Jan 2020

Agenda

UK election plus EU summit in focus This WEEK

  • Current PM Boris Johnson on the campaign trail - the results of Thursday's UK election will come during the two-day EU summit (Photo: Downing Street)

Britain will elect a new parliament on Thursday (12 December) and the results will show whether the UK is likely to leave the EU on 31 January next year.

Prime minister Boris Johnson's Conservative party is leading in the polls, although opposition Labour has picked up some speed and has narrowed down the Tories' lead into single digits, according to the latest polls.

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The anti-Brexit and anti-Tory vote has been split between Labour and the staunchly pro-EU LibDems, while Nigel Farage's Brexit party has agreed not to run against Conservative candidates in about half of the constituencies to avoid splitting the pro-Brexit vote.

Polls have become less reliable in recent years, and the election could yet result a hung parliament, which would mean a possible minority Labour government, with some LibDem and Scottish National party support - and a second Brexit referendum.

However, if Johnson is able to claim victory, as polls predict, the UK will likely leave the EU at the end of January 2020.

EU leaders, gathering for a two-day summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday (12-13 December), will take stock of the UK elections results on Friday, and urge post-Brexit trade talks to start soon.

If the new parliament adopts the Brexit deal negotiated by the UK and EU, the transition period would end at the end of 2020, so a trade deal would have to be negotiated unprecedentedly quickly.

Climate challenge

EU leaders' main aim at the summit will be to try to reach a consensus on making Europe climate neutral by 2050.

A previous attempt to achieve this goal was blocked by Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, which largely rely on coal.

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen last week announced that she wants to mobilise €100bn in investment to help finance helping to green the economy in less developed regions.

A new fund will leverage public and private money, with the help of the European Investment Bank (EIB) which will be come Europe's Climate Bank.

On Wednesday (11 December) the European parliament will hold an extraordinary plenary session, where von der Leyen and commission vice-president Frans Timmermans will present the European Green Deal, a flagship policy of the new executive.

Haggling

EU leaders will also lock horns over the EU's long-term budget.

Positions of the four net payers who want to cap the first post-Brexit budget at 1.0 percent of the gross national income of the bloc, and the over dozen countries which don't want to see EU subsidies cut.

The Finnish EU presidency presented numbers of the different policies, but had received for a lot of criticism for not reaching the 1.0 percent cut, yet cutting deeper into EU funds for regional development.

EU leaders have already presented their opinions at the summit in October.

But positions have only hardened since then, and the new meeting will be an opportunity for a clash between the groups of member states and for new EU council president Charles Michel to start de-escalating the debate and find a compromise next year.

Bad apple

But before EU leaders get together, EU affairs ministers will have a first go at the long-term budget, starting in 2021, on Tuesday (10 December).

EU affair ministers will also have their second hearing with Hungary, which is under the Article 7 EU probe for breaching EU rules and values.

Ministers who want to can join the chair of the parliament's civil liberties committee, Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar

and the MEP in charge of the Hungary file, Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield for breakfast before the hearing.

The process was triggered by a parliament report in 2018, but the parliament's representatives have not been allowed to attend the ministers' meeting.

This time, ministers will focus on the independence of the judiciary, media and academic freedom when quizzing their Hungarian colleague.

The commission will also debrief ministers over an Article 7 procedure against Poland, where a recent European Court of Justice decision said there are reasons to question the independence of a new judicial chamber in Poland to oversee judges.

On Monday (9 December) foreign affairs ministers will look at human rights, and EU-Africa relations, while touching upon political developments in Libya and Bolivia, and in Iran.

On the same day, MEPs in the parliament's constitutional affairs committee will finalise its advice to the leaders of the parliament on the structure of the conference on the future of Europe.

The conference is aimed at reforming EU institutions, and the functioning of the EU to bring it closer to its citizens.

Von der Leyen warns on EU budget cuts

The new EU Commission president will tell EU leaders next week that they need to put money behind their pledges for border protection, defence policy and fighting climate change.

Timmermans warns on cost of inaction on climate

The Green Deal commissioner, Frans Timmermans, said the costs of inaction in climate policy are "tremendously high". However, it is still unclear if member states will unanimously agree on the EU's 2050 climate-neutrality goal at next week's summit.

MEPs declare 'climate emergency' in Europe

The European Parliament approved declaring a "climate emergency", ahead of next week's UN climate conference in Madrid - and three weeks after Donald Trump confirmed the United States' withdrawal from the Paris Agreement.

EU gears up for post-Brexit renovation

Both EU member states and the parliament want to be ready in January with an agreement on how to involve citizens in a serious attempt to rethink the future of the EU. But institutional issues would come first.

Davos and Libya in focus This WEEK

The all-powerful will meet in Davos after Berlin tries to resolve the Libyan conflict over the weekend, while MEPs will set the stage for final ratification of the Brexit deal.

Green money and Iran tensions in focus This WEEK

The EU Commission will unveil the financial backbone for its Green Deal, and also debate a possible minimum wage with MEPs. Lawmakers will also hear from the Jordanian king and the EU's foreign affairs chief.

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