No Brexit: European Parliament President Says Britain Can Stay
European Parliament President Antonio Tajani says that Britain can stay within the EU if British voters don’t vote for the Conservatives on the 8 June. At the same time, he welcomed the news of the UK election as good for the EU, since having the same negotiators would guarantee the stability of the Brexit talks.
No Brexit is possible
On Thursday, speaking after a meeting with PM Theresa May, Tajani said that the Brexit process could be reversed by the EU, if voters didn’t vote for Theresa May’s government. He said: “If the UK, after the election, wants to withdraw [from the EU], then the procedure is very clear. If the UK wanted to stay, everybody would be in favour. I would be very happy.”
Tim Farron, the Lib Dem leader, said that the European Parliament leader’s comments showed that “contrary to Theresa May’s claims, it’s not too late to prevent a divisive, hard Brexit.”
Tajani said that the European Parliament could veto any final deal that questions EU citizens’ rights in Britain and that guaranteeing the free movement of EU nationals would always be under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. The ECJ would manage any agreement on the rights of EU citizens after Brexit and would block any attempt to cancel those rights. There are currently an estimated 3 million EU citizens living in the UK and 1.2 million British in the European Union.
He sought to calm those fearing of May’s hard stance on immigration, specifically concerns about the rights of French, Polish and other EU citizens who are residing in the UK with their family members. He stressed how important it is to preserve those rights by saying that “We want the same rights as today.... For us, it is a priority and it is a red line.” He expressed his optimism about the PM’s decision on such issues, because this would be a reciprocal arrangement: both EU nationals in the UK and UK nationals in the EU would need to have their rights guaranteed.
Tajani welcomed May’s call for election and clarified that for the European Union is convenient to have the same government and would know the situation in the UK: “To have a new government before the beginning of the negotiation is good, not only for the UK but for us, because we will have the same negotiators, the same prime minister and we will know the real situation in the UK. It is better for us to work with the same government and not with a potential election campaign.”
He also showed willingness to enter talks with Britain on trade before the two-year negotiation framework. He said: “We hope before the end of 2017 to have a framework on the exit and immediately afterwards it is possible to start with the negotiations for the day after.”
Tony Blair’s call for a cross-party movement
Tajani’s proposal that the UK can change its position and remain within the EU was followed by Tony Blair’s appeal in the Evening Standard. On Friday, Blair wrote in the Evening Standard that he will back Labour, despite his prediction that Jeremy Corbyn will be defeated, asking people to unite in order to influence the future relationship of the UK with the EU. He noted that if the polls are right “Theresa May will be PM on June 9 with a large majority.” But the big question would be “with what mandate?”
He called all pro-Europeans to demand from their local candidates to commit to stopping a Hard Brexit, “in particular, whether they would refuse to support a deal which substantially diminishes our access to the Single Market or a ‘no deal’ outcome”. Blair said that the reason Theresa May isn’t giving solid pledges is because she knows there is no alternative, but only a “bad and downright ugly” Brexit.
He described May as a “reasonable person pursuing an unreasonable policy.” Blair worries that a re-elected Tory government could pursue “a mandate for Brexit at any cost,” and that “We don’t know what size of majority Theresa May will get. But we can determine what mandate she can claim.”
On Monday night, Blair had also urged voters to back candidates from any party which opposed Brexit in order to hold the “the Government properly to account in the interests of the country. This should cross party lines”.
If Blair’s vision of Brexit is dangerous, then leaked documents seen today by Reuters, suggest that Britain will have to pay off all of its commitments to the EU, and that Brussels is determined to protect the 3 million EU citizens’ rights and ensure that the ECJ rules would be enforced during the transition period. With the EU taking a tough stance and May remaining committed to ending free movement, budget contributions to the EU and the ECJ’s control, the UK and the EU couldn’t be further apart.