EU Summit: Theresa May on Brexit Pilgrimage
The PM Theresa May arrived in Brussels at an EU summit today, where she will be meeting with president of the European council Donald Tusk. May is hoping to inject Brexit talks with some fresh impetus and she is willing to offer extra money to satisfy the EU’s demands.
Mother Theresa has had a difficult month with her Tory family, with many Brexiteers pulling her strings on the financial settlement and EU regulations. Their aversion to the light of the Great European hordes and their distaste towards all European standards, coupled with the fervent desire to exploit Germany’s current weakness, shows that Eurosceptic Brexiteers “really don’t have the least clue,” as Reinhard Bütikofer, a Green German politician and MEP said. He explained: “I have read that some Brexiteers seem to be of the belief that somehow they could cash in on the weakness of Germany. That’s ludicrous, that just looks funny to me. They really don’t have the least clue.”
But May has a less aggressive and inflexible attitude than Brexiters, and, as she arrived in Brussels, told reporters that “These negotiations are continuing but what I am clear about is that we must step forward together. This is for both the UK and the European Union to move on to the next stage.” The negotiations need to now move on to trade talks and beyond the three crucial issues of citizens’ rights, the divorce bill and the Irish border. During a meeting with her cabinet last week, May decided to increase the €20nb financial offer she has already put on the table.
Until this moment, the “delicate choreography,” as the Financial Times called it, between the two sides depends on the UK’s financial offer in December which would be tied to a post-Brexit transition period. The negotiations leading up to the European Council’s meeting on 14-15 December would definitely revolve around the issue of money, as British officials understand so well. At the same time, individual member states would have to consult their parliaments for granting guarantee that the negotiations would move on to a second phase, something that complicates things.
Last Wednesday, when EU ambassadors met, it was emphasised that many EU member states were concerned that if the talks delay any longer the EU will find it difficult to have a clear position.
In particular, the Irish want the UK to keep Northern Ireland in the customs union and the single market to avoid a hard border, something that the Brexit secretary David Davis has rejected. The Irish foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney said today at the EU summit that Dublin wouldn’t accept “aspirational” talks and would want concrete guarantees and the “parameters of a road map” that would show the UK’s clear commitments.
Coveney stated: “We can’t move to phase two on the basis of aspiration. We have to move to phase two on the basis of a credible road map, or the parameters around which we can design a credible road map ... We need progress on this issue, in the context of the regulatory-divergence issue. And I hope and expect that we can get that by December so we can all move on. If we can’t, then I think there’s going to be difficulty moving on.”
As things are heated and desperate times call for desperate measures, the UK has conceded in private that the Irish would have the power to veto any deal at a later stage as long as they allow the talks to move on to trade.
At the time being, things are appearing to a be a bit more difficult for Ireland, and EU negotiators are concerned, not with Britain but with Ireland, as the possibility of an election due to a confidence motion next week in PM Leo Varadkar’s government could disable him from signing off on any deal with the UK. An official in the EU’s Brexit negotiating team told Reuters that “The Irish issue is very worrying. The chances of sufficient progress in December were only 50-50. Now maybe less.”
The EU has supported Ireland’s demands to the UK and Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, reassured Coveney today that the EU26 will stand behind Ireland. Barnier tweeted that the EU would show “strong solidarity with Ireland,” since “Irish issues are EU issues.”
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, said that talks were progressing and that after his meeting with May on 4 December he would be able to see whether sufficient progress was made so that on Dec. 14-15, EU leaders would decide to move on to the discussions of the future trade relationship with the UK.