Friday

18th Jan 2019

Brexit talks resume as chance of 'no deal' put at 50:50

  • With the clock ticking, Brexit talks are bogged down in how to avoid a hard Irish border (Photo: Peter Teffer)

UK officials are in Brussels again on Thursday (16 August) to discuss the future border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland with EU officials.

How to prevent a 'hard border' on the Irish island has remained one of the most difficult sticking points in the UK-EU talks for an agreement between the two sides dealing with how the UK will leave the bloc.

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 Northern Irish/Republic of Ireland border post at Strabane, in the 1970s (Photo: henrikjon)

The talks will not be attended by the UK's recently-appointed new Brexit minister Dominic Raab or the EU's main Brexit man Michel Barnier, but rather by lower-level civil servants.

They take place as more and more politicians openly discuss the possibilities of a 'no-deal scenario'.

On Wednesday, Latvia's foreign minister said there was a 50 percent chance that the two sides would not be able to conclude a deal by 29 March 2019, which would mean the UK would leave the EU in a completely unpredictable manner.

"Frankly, at this point I would rate it 50:50 – 50:50 is a very considerable risk," said Edgars Rinkevics.

"None of us want no deal, none of us are working towards that, I think it would be damaging for both this country and the EU," he noted, adding that a deal was needed by autumn.

That timeline would allow parliaments in member states time to ratify the agreement.

Rinkevics spoke on the occasion of a visit by Britain's new foreign minister, Jeremy Hunt, who is touring several northern European states to push prime minister Theresa May's white paper on Brexit.

Hunt told press in Helsinki that the risk of a no-deal Brexit had been "increasing recently".

"Everyone needs to prepare for the possibility of a chaotic no-deal Brexit," he said.

He said that he hoped to avoid it, but warned "a change in approach" was needed from the European Commission.

Earlier this week, Barnier's deputy, Sabine Weyand, said in a tweet that there was no guarantee the negotiators would succeed, and that EU companies needed to "prepare for a disorderly Brexit".

RTE quoted Irish senator Neale Richmond on Thursday (16 August) calling the idea that 'no deal is better than a bad deal' – as May once said – was a myth.

"Flights would be grounded, crops will rot in the ground, there will be a run on the banks, trucks will be stuck at ports and a hard border would be a target for dissident paramilitaries," said Richmond.

Press reports have interpreted Hunt's trip, and that of other UK cabinet ministers across the European continent this summer, as an attempt to divide the 27 remaining EU member states – represented by Barnier.

Rinkevics stressed that the 27 were united.

The Guardian newspaper wrote on Wednesday that one of its sources called the suggestion that UK prime minister May would want to discuss Brexit at an informal EU summit in Salzburg next month "completely ridiculous".

"It would mean that we would ditch our negotiating approach of the last two years and discuss at 28 instead of 27 to one, and I don't see why this would happen," the source told the Guardian.

Stopping Brexit?

Meanwhile, some of those that want the UK to remain in the EU have not given up the prospect of cancelling Brexit.

A group of UK citizens living in other EU countries launched a legal challenge this week, calling for the annulment of the 2016 referendum result.

They argue that because two groups promoting the leave argument broke campaign spending rules, the UK's High Court should declare the result null and void.

"We hope to demonstrate that you can't win by cheating," said Sue Wilson, a Briton living in Spain, according to the Independent.

"If there is another referendum, there mustn't be a repeat of the illegal activity witnessed last time round," she said.

On Wednesday, another legal challenge related to Brexit took place in Edinburgh.

Plaintiffs have asked a Scottish court to ask the European Court of Justice whether the UK could unilaterally prevent Brexit.

The request is about article 50 of the EU treaty, which governs exiting the EU.

Lawyer Jo Maugham told Reuters that he wanted clarity whether the UK parliament could withdraw article 50 without agreement from the 27 other EU states, to keep the "option of treating Brexit as just a bad dream".

In any case, the consequences of Brexit have started becoming more clear than before the referendum.

"I think it is only now the British public and British government understand how complex, how difficult this kind of Brexit is, and that it is very difficult to build the future relationship," said Rinkevics.

The future relationship will be on the agenda for EU-UK talks on Friday.

May on Riviera to seek French softening on Brexit

The British prime minister is meeting French president Macron in his seaside retreat. She will try to convince him that her plans for EU-UK relations are "mutually beneficial".

News in Brief

  1. EU trade commissioner asks for green light for US talks
  2. Slovakia's commissioner takes unpaid leave to run for presidency
  3. Minority elects Lofven as prime minister of Sweden
  4. Putin opposes EU prospects of Serbia and Kosovo
  5. Tsipras launches campaign to ratify Macedonia deal
  6. US-EU meeting in doubt after Trump cancels plane
  7. Germany and China to sign pact on finance cooperation
  8. Labour divided on second Brexit vote plan

Opinion

Lost in Brexit chaos - abortion rights in Northern Ireland

Labour MP Diana Johnson has brought a private members bill to Westminster that proposes to decriminalise abortion in the whole of the UK, which means that, if successfully passed, current provisions for Northern Ireland will also be repealed.

May on whistle-stop EU tour to seek new backstop pledges

The British prime minister dramatically delayed a parliamentary vote on the Brexit deal at the last minute, as she faced defeat. Theresa May will now speed-tour EU capitals to try to secure further political guarantees.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. Germany led way on EU human rights protection
  2. How to troll the European Parliament elections
  3. MEPs in Strasbourg: everywhere but the plenary
  4. Brexit delay 'reasonable', as May tries cross-party talks
  5. MEPs allow Draghi's membership of secretive bank group
  6. EU parliament backs Morocco deal despite row
  7. Barnier open to 'future relations' talks if UK red lines shift
  8. German spies to monitor far-right AfD party

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  2. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  3. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  5. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  6. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  8. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  10. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us