Brexit set to dominate EU’s Council meeting in Brussels
Theresa May is in Brussels Thursday to ask for more time on Brexit as EU leaders gather for a two-day summit, with China, trade and disinformation also on the agenda.
The British prime minister wants the EU27 to agree to delay the U.K.’s departure deadline until June 30, but European Council President Donald Tusk has already said there won’t be a short Brexit extension unless the House of Commons passes the deal May reached with Brussels.
Theresa May refused to rule out taking the U.K. out of the EU without a deal as she arrived at what could be her last EU summit.
The U.K. prime minister said she would discuss with fellow leaders her request for a short extension of Article 50 until the end of June, something the EU has said would only be feasible if MPs back her deal in the House of Commons next week.
POLITICO reports that when she was whether, if the deal is rejected for a third time, she would be willing to see the U.K. leave without a deal next Friday, May said she “sincerely” hoped the country could leave with a negotiated settlement but that “what matters” was delivering Brexit.
“What is important is that parliament delivers on the result of the referendum and that we deliver Brexit for the British people,” she said. “I sincerely hope that we can do that with a deal. I’m still working on ensuring that parliament can agree a deal so that we can leave in an orderly way. What matters is that we deliver on the vote of the British people.”
On the Financial Times Emmanuel Macron is reported of having warned that if the British parliament fails to approve the Brexit deal negotiated with Brussels in an eleventh-hour vote next week, the UK is heading towards a “no-deal” exit from the EU on March 29.
The French president has emerged as the head of the hardline group of EU leaders who have argued that Brussels should rule out any extended delay of Britain’s exit date unless London fundamentally rethinks its Brexit policy. Arriving at an EU summit in Brussels, Mr Macron said that while he was “open to a technical extension” of next week’s Brexit date if Theresa May’s deal is approved by the UK parliament so that it can be implemented, a rejection by MPs should trigger the end of talks. “In the case of a negative vote, we will go towards no deal — we all know it,” he said.
“And it’s essential to be absolutely clear in these times and at these moments because it’s about the proper functioning of the EU. We cannot have extensions that I would call excessive that would limit our capacity to decide and act.” Mr Macron’s comments reflect a hardening of the EU’s position in recent days, with the European Commission warning the remaining 27 countries that an extended delay to Brexit could threaten the EU’s own internal workings.
“We’re close to a gangrene moment,” said one senior European Commission official. Michel Barnier, the European Commission’s chief negotiator, said Mrs May’s request for a three-month delay to June 30 was “conditional on a positive vote next week”. Mrs May was also facing growing pressure at home to scrap her current agreement and shift to a new Plan B, with business and union groups calling for her urgently to change tack to deal with what they described as a “national emergency”.
Meanwhile EU leaders are also expected to yield to pressure from Berlin and Paris and “endorse” a law that will restrict the access of Chinese companies to the EU’s €2.4 trillion-per-year public procurement market.
Draft conclusions for the European Council also back the European Commission’s aim of beginning trade talks with the U.S. soon, and leaders will discuss fighting fake news ahead of May’s European election.
Via Politico / FT