United Kingdom and Gibraltar European Union membership referendum
"Time is running out" said Michel Barnier. The Brexit chief negotiator did not want to reveal more to the EU when he left the EU parliament in Brussels on Wednesday afternoon, accompanied by two employees.
The Frenchman became clearer when, one day later, he briefed the group leaders on the talks he had had this week with representatives of the British government. Barnier's conclusion was sobering, they said. The British still refused to make concrete proposals to resolve the blockade in the negotiations. The impression is that London is no longer interested in a solution and is working towards a tough break with the EU - despite the attempts of the British Parliament to prevent such a no-deal-Brexit.
The main problem continues to be the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. The so-called backstop - the agreement that Britain should stay in the EU Customs Union if necessary, to prevent a new hard border on the Irish island after Brexit - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants to delete from the exit agreement.
Although there had been recent speculation that Johnson could accept an earlier form of backstop, which applies only to Northern Ireland and not to the entire United Kingdom. But the hopes destroyed Johnson on Wednesday evening, by declaring this variant unacceptable.
This week, "Ideas in the area of customs duties and industrial goods," said a spokesman for the British government. The EU is moderately impressed. "We remain ready to consider concrete and legally operational offerings in the UK," Barnier told journalists Thursday. Shortly thereafter, Ireland's Foreign Minister Simon Coveney criticized the British for having "made no substantive proposal". The ideas from London come "not even close to what would be necessary in terms of backstop".
Will Johnson ever reach an agreement?
One reason, as one suspects in Brussels, is that the domestic political situation in Britain is "The British government does not want to submit anything in writing because it knows that Parliament will not be in favor of a majority," says a Brussels official.
Johnson's aim, EU diplomats suspect, is to give Britain the greatest possible freedom to conclude its own trade agreements with other countries after Brexit, thereby gaining a competitive advantage by undermining the EU's social, consumer and tax standards. "Such a Singapore on the Thames would be the worst possible outcome for all concerned, "says Martin Schirdewan, co-leader of the Left in the European Parliament and a member of the Brexit steering group.
The European Parliament is determined not to give in to Johnson's demands. "There will be no agreement without backstop," said Parliament President David Sassoli after the meeting with Barnier and the group leaders.
"The European Parliament has the last word"
Sassoli announced a resolution that Parliament is expected to pass on Wednesday in Strasbourg. As DER SPIEGEL reported on Monday, it affirms Parliament's previous position that the withdrawal agreement must regulate three points:
- the exit bill of Great Britain,
- the rights of citizens in the EU and the UK,
- the avoidance of a new hard border on the Irish island.
The European Parliament will "not agree to an agreement" that does not take these points into account, said Sassoli.
Although the Brexit is to be completed on 31 October. But before that, a summit of EU leaders will be held on 17 and 18 October. If Johnson can not submit a new ratification treaty to the British House of Commons the day after, he will have to request an extension of the Brexit deadline in Brussels - Parliament has obliged him to do so by law.
Since it is currently unlikely that an agreement will be reached within the next five weeks, everything is currently being extended. Although the French government recently threatened again with its veto: If London does not submit any new proposals, the answer would be no, said French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. But in Brussels, hardly anyone believes that the French would be serious, if only because the EU repeatedly invokes its solidarity with Ireland and the Irish Government explicitly supports an extension.
But both the threats from France and the fears in Brussels show Johnson's deceptions: Trust in the British Prime Minister is now close to zero.
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