21st Mar 2023

EU parliament wobbles on Brexit timeline

MEPs are set to adopt a resolution on Tuesday (28 June) urging Britain to end the ”damaging uncertainty” of Brexit by quickly starting exit talks.

European Parliament (EP) members earlier roared criticism at David Cameron when the British prime minister announced that he would hand over responsibility for the UK’s exit procedure to a successor in October.

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Leaders of four political groups in the EU assembly - the centre-right EPP, the socialists, liberals, and greens - drafted a resolution over the weekend in which they call upon the UK to immediately activate article 50 of the EU treaty.

The clause says that a member state needs to officially notify the EU Council that it intends to withdraw from the Union, triggering exit talks.

The EP’s draft text, to be adopted at an extraordinary session ahead of the EU summit on Tuesday, warns of the ”damaging uncertainty for everyone” if the UK postpones the negotiations.

If the draft were to be adopted in its current form, it would see the EP throw its weight behind European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and several other EU leaders who have called for a swift divorce.

But it’s unsure whether MEPs will stick to their hard line.

Socialists and liberals, the second and fourth largest groups in the European Parliament, respectively, are sticking to their hawkish position.

”We won’t be hostage of a political caprice by Mr Cameron”, said Jan Bernas, spokesperson of socialist leader Gianni Pittella. ”He should respect the will of the people in the referendum that he wanted.”

The liberal and socialist group leaders also tabled amendments asking the EU Commission not to appoint a new British commissioner following Jonathan Hill’s resignation last week.

Cameron said on Monday that he wanted to seek a replacement so long as the UK remained a full member of the bloc.

But the EPP and the Greens have tabled amendments softening their previous stance, suggesting that the article 50 notification must take place ”as soon as possible” instead of right away.

”The UK wanted to leave as soon as possible, it’s part of respecting the referendum outcome”, said Theo Georgitsopoulos, the spokesperson of EPP leader Manfred Weber.

”Triggering article 50 would be better today than tomorrow … but it’s not for us to decide,” he said.

The conservative ECR group, which hosts Cameron’s Tory party MEPs, also tabled its own resolution that said article 50 should be triggered in a ”considerable and measured manner”.

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