Monday

8th Aug 2022

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).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • 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.

Opinion

Let Taiwan's democracy shine brighter

Dr Ming-Yen Tsai, head of the Taipei Representative Office in the EU and Belgium, responds to EUobserver op-ed on Taiwan by the Chinese ambassador to Belgium. "Taiwan is an 'island of resilience'. That will continue to be the case."

Opinion

Supporting Taiwan 'like carrying water in a sieve'

China's ambassador to Belgium, Cao Zhongming, says the US has been distorting, obscuring and hollowing out the 'one-China' principle and unscrupulously undermining China's core interests. This is sheer double standards and a shameful act of bad faith.

News in Brief

  1. Rhine river on the brink of closure for shipping
  2. Moldova sees 'prelude to war' with Russia-backed forces
  3. Taliban preventing Afghan evacuations to Germany
  4. Amnesty regrets 'distress' caused by Ukraine report
  5. Energy companies warn UK gas exports to EU are contaminated
  6. EU set for clash over rules on political adverts
  7. Three grain ships due to leave Ukraine on Friday
  8. EU on track to reach gas-storage November target

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  3. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  6. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting

Latest News

  1. Italy poised to elect far-right rulers
  2. UN chief demands access to nuclear plant after new attack
  3. Greek PM embroiled in spyware scandal
  4. How Ukraine made the case anew for an EU army
  5. 'We must take back institutions', Orban tells US conservatives
  6. Putin must lose Ukraine war, Nato chief says
  7. Let Taiwan's democracy shine brighter
  8. Droughts prompt calls to cut water use amid harvest fears

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us