Sunday

17th Dec 2017

Chief centre-left MEP says UK could still remain

  • Pro-EU rally in London held on the day of the 60th anniversary of the Rome treaty (Photo: Guled Ahmed)

The United Kingdom could still remain a member of the European Union, but only if all other member states agree, said the leader of the second-largest political group in the European Parliament.

“Our door remains open, if the UK wants to change its mind,” said centre-left MEP, Gianni Pittella, on Tuesday evening (4 April).

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Pittella: 'Our door remains open, if the UK wants to change its mind'

“But this choice has to be symmetric, [it] has to be bilateral. [It] has to involve all the member states, the 27 member states have to agree on this procedure.”

Pittella spoke to journalists in Strasbourg at a dinner organised by his group, the centre-left Socialists & Democrats (S&D).

He said it was “difficult” to see how the UK could revert its decision to leave the EU, taken last year through an in/out referendum, with prime minister Theresa May at the helm.

“It's a theoretical possibility, it's an option. All can happen in life,” said the Italian MEP, who noted that the UK's change of heart should come “through a democratic process”.

Pittella said that if “hypothetically” the UK government makes a U-turn for the country to remain an EU member, “I would be happy.”

“You don't forget. Our position was not for Brexit,” he said.

“For us it's not a victory that we now we have to start the negotiation. ... It's a reason of sadness, profound, deep sadness. I think this is a loss for Europe and a terrible mistake for the UK," commented Pittella.

“So, our hope is always that they change their mind. But we have to respect the democratic will,” he added.

EU-27 unanimity

However, Pittella argued that, in his opinion, there should be unanimity among the remaining 27 member states to take the UK back.

“It's not up only to the UK to decide if this reversibility can work. It's up also to the European counterpart,” he said.

Pittella's stance on EU-27 unanimity is a political message, there is no legal clarity on how this would work. The legal text that allows the UK to leave the EU, article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, does not explain how a country could decide to remain part of the EU after negotiations for its departure have started.

Pittella's comments came after one of his political allies in Germany, Sigmar Gabriel, said “the burden [of Brexit] for the Brits is higher than for the Europeans”.

Former leader of Germany's social-democratic party (SPD) and current German foreign minister, Gabriel rejected May's stance that “no deal is better than a bad deal”.

Deal or no deal

“Having no deal is not the best idea for Britain and the European Union,” Gabriel said on Tuesday, after speaking with his UK counterpart Boris Johnson.

“It would bring a burden on both sides, for the Brits as well as the Europeans,” the top German diplomat added.

“Of course we want to see negotiations about Brexit being fair. … Fair for Britain, but also from our point of view, fair for the remaining 27 members of the European Union,” he said.

Both Gabriel and Pittella stressed that a country outside the EU cannot have the same or more advantages than an EU member.

Pittella spoke to journalists to outline his group's position ahead of a debate in the European Parliament on Wednesday (5 April).

MEPs will discuss Brexit and adopt a non-binding resolution.

The draft text says that the EU-UK deal on the latter's departure should include reassurances of the legal status of EU citizens in the UK, and British citizens living in the EU.

It also states that there should be clarity on the settlement of the UK's outstanding financial liabilities and the EU's external border.

MPs urge May to put price tag on Brexit

The UK parliament's Brexit committee said that the prime minister's claim that a "no deal is better than a bad deal" for the UK is "unsubstantiated", and called on the government to assess the consequences of leaving the EU.

EU guidelines set out two-phase Brexit talks

According to the draft negotiating guidelines, the EU-27 would open negotiations on future EU-UK relations when "sufficient progress" has been made on citizens' rights, the British financial bill and the status of the border in Ireland.

Analysis

EU's Article 50: the rules for Brexit

Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty contains the rules that a member state wishing to leave the EU must follow. But it has never been used and leaves many unanswered questions on Brexit.

MEPs draw 'red lines' on Brexit deal

MEPs will stress that the UK and EU members have no right to conclude separate deals during Brexit talks, according to a draft resolution seen by EUobserver.

Stakeholder

Let's not put European public health at risk

Following Brexit, there are many different cities across the EU vying for the coveted prize of hosting the displaced European Medicines Agency, but Copenhagen might just be the perfect fit.

Brexit: EU trade talks to start in April

Talks on future trade relations to start mid-April, as Brussels waits for London to say what sort of relationship it wants, but last week's deal now 'Davis-proofed'.

News in Brief

  1. EU adopts 'track-and-trace' tobacco system
  2. Luxembourg appeals Amazon tax decision
  3. EU leaders agree to open phase 2 of Brexit talks
  4. Juncker: May made 'big efforts' on Brexit
  5. Merkel took 'tough' line on Russia at EU summit
  6. EU leaders added line supporting 'two-state' solution
  7. EU leaders agree to 20 European Universities by 2024
  8. Belgian courts end legal proceedings against Puigdemont

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  2. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% plastics recycling rate attainable by 2025 new study shows
  3. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  4. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  5. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  6. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  10. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  12. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties

Latest News

  1. Catalonia, Brexit, and Uber on EU agenda This WEEK
  2. Macron and Merkel take tough line on Poland
  3. Eurozone future needs structural reforms, EU leaders told
  4. Showdown EU vote on asylum looking likely for next June
  5. EU stresses unity as it launches next phase of Brexit talks
  6. Polish PM ready for EU sanctions scrap
  7. Dutchman to lead powerful euro working group
  8. EU mulls post-Brexit balance of euro and non-eurozone states

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSUEU Blacklist of Tax Havens Is a Sham
  2. EU2017EERole of Culture in Building Cohesive Societies in Europe
  3. ILGA EuropeCongratulations to Austria - Court Overturns Barriers to Equal Marriage
  4. Centre Maurits CoppietersCelebrating Diversity, Citizenship and the European Project With Fundació Josep Irla
  5. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceUnderstanding the Social Consequences of Obesity
  6. Union for the MediterraneanMediterranean Countries Commit to Strengthening Women's Role in Region
  7. Bio-Based IndustriesRegistration for BBI JU Stakeholder Forum about to close. Last chance to register!
  8. European Heart NetworkThe Time Is Ripe for Simplified Front-Of-Pack Nutrition Labelling
  9. Counter BalanceNew EU External Investment Plan Risks Sidelining Development Objectives
  10. EU2017EEEAS Calls for Eastern Partnership Countries to Enter EU Market Through Estonia
  11. Dialogue PlatformThe Turkey I No Longer Know
  12. World Vision7 Million Children at Risk in the DRC: Donor Meeting to Focus on Saving More Lives