MEPs increasingly angry over stalled Brexit talks

Written by Martin Banks on 6 December 2017 in News
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MEPs have reacted bitterly to this week’s breakdown in Brexit talks aimed at finding a solution to the Irish border issue.

Theresa May | Photo credit: Press Association


UK Prime Minister Theresa May is facing mounting pressure to secure a breakthrough in EU negotiations after the Democratic Unionist party, which is propping up May’s government, expressed shock at the handling of the Irish border issue and Brexit-supporting Conservatives said the time had come to walk away.

Senior cabinet members also voiced unease at May’s tactics, and complained they were not informed in advance about Downing Street’s plan to promise the EU some form of ‘regulatory alignment’ to help move the divorce talks on to the next stage.

Sources warned that key Brexit supporters in May’s top team would object if they believed that anything was agreed that could limit the UK’s ability to diverge from the EU in the future.


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May, who may return to Brussels this week to hold further talks with Brussels, has said she still believes a deal can be struck before next week’s EU summit where the signal was supposed to be given for the talks to proceed to other issues such as trade and security.

However, UK Socialist MEP Richard Corbett told this website he fears the issue could prove insurmountable.

On Wednesday, he said, “This was billed as the Prime Minister riding in to rescue the talks, but instead her political weakness at home has blocked progress. After today’s failed diplomacy, confusion and delusion, EU leaders will doubtless begin to question Theresa May’s authority when it comes to future negotiations.

“We are now 18 months on from the referendum, and it’s been nine months since the triggering of Article 50 - yet we are still in the first phase of negotiations, discussing issues that should have been wrapped up months ago. Never mind crossing the finish line of the talks, she can’t even get off the starting block,” said the deputy, who leads the UK Labour group in Parliament.

“The bitter divisions within the Conservative party are quickly becoming apparent as the impossibility of May’s contradictory Brexit aspirations all being satisfied finally comes up against political reality.”

Further criticism has come from Manfred Weber, leader of Parliament’s EPP group, who said, “In the Brexit negotiations, money is one of the problems, but it is not the biggest one. We are much more concerned about the fact that negotiations are stalled on the protection of EU citizens’ rights and on the Irish case.”

The German deputy added, “We will not change our red lines. The lives of millions of families are at stake. If no clear commitment is made, the EPP group will not be ready to assess the progress made as sufficient to enter a second phase of negotiations.” 

Parliament has taken by far the hardest line of all the EU institutions and has particularly focused on the issue of citizens’ rights, where MEPs want cast iron guarantees on ECJ jurisdiction. 

Weber, who is an ally of Angela Merkel, has been one of Brexit’s toughest critics and has repeatedly stressed the Parliament is not afraid to wield its veto.

In recent weeks, the two sides have moved closer to agreement on both a financial settlement and, until this week, the Irish border - with less focus on citizens’ rights, the third divorce issue.

But Seb Dance, a Labour MEP and a member of the Parliament’s EU citizens’ taskforce, said that Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, had “not gone far enough,” adding, “There are concerns that the EU is ready to dilute its stance on citizens’ rights - but we won’t sit back and let that happen.”

 

About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter for the Parliament Magazine

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