Saturday

23rd Mar 2019

Barnier: UK has to move on Brexit

The EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said on Monday night negotiations with the UK will continue in the "coming days" - but warned earlier that on the British side "something has to give".

Barnier met with the UK's Brexit minister Steve Barclay on Monday evening in Brussels at the British ambassador's residence for discussions on the Brexit deal.

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

After the meeting, Barnier told Sky News that they will continue their discussions in the coming days, but he reiterated that the EU will not renegotiate the deal clinched last November.

"We aren't going to reopen the withdrawal agreement," Barnier said after the meeting, which was described by a UK spokesman as "constructive".

The Brexit deal, and the accompanying political declaration on the future relationship between the EU and the UK, was overwhelmingly rejected by the UK parliament last month, by some 230 votes.

British prime minister Theresa May hopes to secure changes to the withdrawal agreement, particularly on the so-called backstop aimed to maintain an open border on the island of Ireland, to gain enough backing in parliament for the deal to pass by MPs.

Barclay on Monday evening had been expected to argue for unspecified "alternative arrangements", a time limit to the backstop, or a unilateral exit clause from the backstop, which keeps the UK aligned with the EU's customs union. All which had been previously discussed and dismissed by negotiators.

May is to address British lawmakers on Tuesday, one day ahead of when she was expected to report back to MPs on the progress of the talks, and any alternative plans.

She will urge MPs to "hold our nerve" to get the changes to the Brexit deal.

However, the EU has repeatedly said the withdrawal agreement, sealed by the EU-27 leaders after 18 months of negotiations between the UK and the EU, is not going to be reopened.

The EU has signalled that it could tweak the political declaration on the future relationship.

Top EU officials suggested one way out of the impasse could be for the UK to remain in the customs union, an idea put forward by opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in a letter to May last Wednesday in exchange for Labour votes for the deal.

"I found Corbyn's letter interesting in tone and in content," Barnier said earlier in the day in Luxembourg. "Something has to give on the British side," he added.

EU officials warn that a failure to agree on a withdrawal agreement will complicate any discussion on the future relationship. They want the UK to move its red lines to secure a deal.

The EU is reluctant to make any gestures towards the UK on the backstop, not only because of maintaining peace in Northern Ireland and preventing a backdoor into the EU's single market, but also because the bloc is not convinced that any EU concession would be enough for May get a majority she needs.

'Non, non, non'

"Today the response of the Brexiteers is non, non, non et non. But they haven't actually proposed any alternatives," Luxembourg premier Xavier Bettel told reports after meeting Barnier.

On Sunday, May in a letter ruled out Corbyn's offer to have Britain remain in the single customs area.

"We are absolutely clear on this: we're not considering Jeremy Corbyn's customs proposals, we're not considering any proposals to remain in the customs union. We must have our own, independent trade policy," May's spokesman said on Monday.

"We're waiting for clarity and movement from the United Kingdom," Barnier told reporters on Monday in Luxembourg

"This time that remains is extremely short," he added.

Meanwhile, Barclay is set to meet MEPs in Strasbourg on Tuesday, with only 45 days left until the UK leaves the bloc.

EU and UK agree - but only to hold further Brexit talks

After Theresa May's "robust" talks with top EU officials, London and Brussels agree to talk further - even though their opposing positions have not inched closer. European Parliament president Antonio Tajani warned "We're weeks from an economic and human catastrophe."

Have a good reason for Brexit extension, Barnier tells UK

Ahead of the crucial summit of EU leaders on Brexit this week, the EU's chief negotiator warned Theresa May's government to have a clear objective for an extension that she still needs to request formally from the EU.

Agenda

Brexit and trip to Egypt for Arab League This WEEK

Brexit talks will continue in Brussels, as UK PM Theresa May's government is trying to find a way out of the political impasse at home. Murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi's fiancee will speak at the European Parliament next week.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders at summit demand more effort on disinformation
  2. Report: Corbyn to meet May on Monday for Brexit talks
  3. Petition against Brexit attracts 2.4m signatures
  4. Study: Brexit to cost EU citizens up to €40bn annually
  5. NGOs demand France halt Saudi arm sales
  6. Report: Germany against EU net-zero emissions target
  7. Former top EU official takes job at law firm
  8. Draft text of EU summit has Brexit extension until 22 May

Feature

'Swexit' off menu at election for first time in 24 years

The Swedish Left Party have abandoned euroscepticism to campaign on climate change - whilst the hard-right Sweden Democrats spy possibilities of a link up with Matteo Salvini of Italy and France's Marine Le Pen.

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 campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  2. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean
  3. Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK
  4. EU avoids Brexit crash, sets new date for 12 April
  5. Campaigning commissioners blur the lines
  6. Slovakia puts squeeze on free press ahead of election
  7. EPP suspends Orban's Fidesz party
  8. Macron is confusing rigidity with strength

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us