Tuesday

19th Mar 2019

May travels to Brussels without Ireland deal

  • May and Juncker will sit down on Monday for a crucial final round of talks before a crunch EU summit next week (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

British prime minister Theresa May is travelling to Brussels on Monday (4 December) to try to reach a deal on Brexit divorce issues despite having failed to clinch an agreement on the Northern Ireland border ahead of the meeting.

May, her Brexit minister David Davis and the prime minister's Brexit adviser Olly Robbins, will meet with EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, EU negotiator Michel Barnier and Juncker's chief of staff, Martin Selmayr, for lunch.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The lunch is an "absolute deadline" set by the EU for the UK to come up with proposals on the three key divorce issues, so that EU leaders can give a green light on starting transition and trade talks at their summit next week.

However, the UK has rejected the deadline with a government spokesperson saying: "With plenty of discussions still to go, Monday will be an important staging post on the road to the crucial December Council."

Negotiations could possibly go on until Wednesday when Barnier will brief EU commissioners about the progress and make a formal recommendation on whether "sufficient progress" has been achieved for the next phase of talks to be unlocked.

Key divisions remain on the issues of the Irish border and the rights of EU citizens living in the UK.

Ireland, with the backing of the other 26 member states, wants the UK to provide guarantees on how to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland – part of the UK – and the Republic of Ireland.

Dublin insists on clarity from the UK that there would be no divergence from EU rules in Northern Ireland.

Discrepancies in customs and standard rules could lead to the re-emergence of a border on the island, risking reigniting sectarian divisions that led to decades of violence which ended with the Good Friday agreement.

The UK however said it would not create a border between Northern Ireland and the rest of Britain.

Despite intense discussions over the weekend over the border issue, Irish officials said on Sunday night that "there is still a way to go."

"The Irish government remains hopeful, but at this stage it is very difficult to make a prediction," the official added.

European Council president Donald Tusk, showing support for the Irish position, said in Dublin on Friday that the EU will not accept any offer that Dublin is not satisfied with.

"If the UK offer is unacceptable for Ireland, it will also be unacceptable for the EU," he said after meeting Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar.

May will also meet with Tusk on Monday.

Citizens' rights

The issue of citizens' rights has also remained a hurdle.

"The 4.5m people who will be directly affected by Brexit will not be able to carry on with their lives as normal if the European Commission decides that 'sufficient progress' has been made on citizens' rights on Wednesday 6th December," said a statement of EU citizens living in the UK and UK citizens residing in the EU.

European Court of Justice oversight protecting these rights, such as family reunification, and free movement for UK citizens are key sticking points in the talks.

Juncker will meet with the European Parliament's Brexit task force led by liberal MEP Guy Verhofstadt a few hours before he welcomes May.

"We will not change our red lines. The lives of millions of families are at stake. If no clear commitment is made, the EPP group will not be ready to assess the progress made as sufficient to enter a 2nd phase of negotiations," Manfred Weber, German MEP and leader of the largest group, the European People's Party in the EP, tweeted.

The parliament needs to sign off the Brexit divorce agreement.

While for months a divorce settlement on financial issues between the UK and the EU represented the biggest hurdle to progress in talks, the UK last week mostly agreed to pay what the EU has been asking for.

But a failure to agree on the other issues and move onto the next phase of talks raises the risk of Britain crashing out of the EU in 2019 without arrangements on the terms of divorce or future relationship.

A new poll, published in the Mail on Sunday newspaper, showed that half of Britons support a second referendum on whether to leave the EU and a majority think the government may be paying too much money to the EU.

Barnier: UK must come up with Ireland solution

EU Brexit negotiator tells UK to come up with solutions to the Irish border issue and prepare to include a level playing field in its future trade deal with the EU, if it is to be ratified by member states.

Tusk to show support for Ireland as Brexit deadline looms

The UK offered to pay almost everything the EU has asked for, leaving the Irish border the key issue in Brexit talks. In an attempt to isolate the Irish position, the UK hopes to achieve "sufficient progress" next week.

Analysis

What are the key points of the Brexit deal?

Here is a brief summary of the main points of the 'joint report', the outline of the Brexit divorce deal reached on Friday morning - and what still lies ahead.

Tusk: 'Getting closer' to a Brexit deal

A deal is within reach beween the EU and UK on Brexit, as leaders in Dublin and London seemed to have clinched an agreement on the thorny issue of the Irish border.

News in Brief

  1. Blow for May as third vote on Brexit deal ruled out
  2. Three killed in possible 'terror' gun attack in Utrecht
  3. Third Brexit vote this week only if DUP will support it
  4. Germany's two largest banks confirm merger talks
  5. Serbian pro-democracy protests reach 15th week
  6. 'Yellow Vest' riots leave Paris shops vandalised
  7. European woman older when having first baby
  8. Majority of Germans want Merkel to stay on

Opinion

What is fate of non-euro EU states after Brexit?

The UK's withdrawal from the EU will heighten fears of marginalisation among the eight member states - Bulgaria, Denmark, Croatia, Poland, Romania, Sweden, Czech Republic and Hungary - that have not adopted the euro.

Opinion

Brexit vs Grexit: The six stages of losing to the EU

Theresa May's venture seems very similar to the attempt by Alexis Tsipras in 2015 to persuade Brussels to accept his terms for the bail out - a huge negotiation failure, presented to the public as the best possible deal.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  2. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  3. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  6. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  11. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  12. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  2. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  4. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  5. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us