No end to Brexit deadlock?

Written by Martin Banks on 24 January 2019 in Opinion
Opinion

MEPs from Parliament’s Brexit Steering Group have accused the UK Parliament of “not knowing what it wants” after the British House of Commons overwhelmingly voted against Prime Minister Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement.

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MEPs have expressed their frustration as the Brexit debacle hit yet another impasse.

In a Brexit debate in Strasbourg, German EPP deputy Elmar Brok said, “We, the EU 27, have to show unity. We cannot question the integrity of our single market and the fundamental ideas of the EU."

"The result shows that the British Parliament is divided. There is no majority for anything, all parties are split. Theresa May doesn’t seem to be capable of finding a constructive solution and has declared that she will speak to the opposition."


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"This should have happened two and a half years ago, in order to prevent the chaos. At this point the EU27 can only wait and see what happens in British politics."

"We’ve done our part, we’ve negotiated a Withdrawal Agreement that offers the best possible compromise for the EU and the UK. The problem should be clear: The deal is not renegotiable.”

Brok warned that if the British do not solve the political “chaos”, a hard Brexit is inevitable, adding, “This would have serious consequences for the British economy”.

“Parliament is ready to constructively discuss any new offers from the British Parliament. There should be an end to those party politics and personal ambitions within British politics that are making it impossible to find a majority for the deal. We should now wait until the British arrive at an agreed solution."

“It is frustrating to try to reach an agreement with a government that doesn’t know what it wants. They have had to be dragged towards an agreement by the EU” Gabriele Zimmer MEP

The withdrawal date, 29 March, could only be postponed as a consequence of new elections or a referendum,” Brok added.

His comments were echoed by GUE leader Gabriele Zimmer, who told the plenary, “It is frustrating to try to reach an agreement with a government that doesn’t know what it wants. They have had to be dragged towards an agreement by the EU."

"Every time we think we have an agreement they seem to go back on it.”

She added, “The Withdrawal Agreement is not perfect, mainly due to the begrudging and restrictive approach of the British. We would prefer that citizens’ rights are maintained in their entirety, but at least citizens have minimum guarantees."

"We would prefer that the Good Friday Agreement is fully respected, but at least the Agreement avoids physical infrastructure on the border in Ireland. It is not going to be renegotiated.”

Zimmer continued, “If the British choose to maintain a closer relationship to the EU - membership of the Customs Union and/or single market - we are ready to agree. But they have to decide."

"If Britain crashes out of the EU, then our priority will be to ensure that citizens are protected. We will also encourage holding a referendum on Irish unification in Northern Ireland, as provided for in the Good Friday Agreement.”

“We’ve negotiated a Withdrawal Agreement that displays the best possible compromise for the EU and the UK. The problem should be clear: The deal is not renegotiable” Elmar Brok MEP

Polish EPP deputy Danuta Hubner said, “The entire Brexit process has been characterised on one side by substantive disagreements, procedural complexities, political controversy, and deep divisions at the UK national level, and on the other by unprecedented unity among the member states and the EU institutions.”

“We’re at a critical point, just before the end of the 2-year [Article 50] period with no agreement signed. The one [deal] negotiated has been rejected by the Commons. The Brexit process continues to create uncertainty.”

“The ball is now clearly in the court of the UK government. It needs to decide quickly on how it seeks to resolve the impasse before a disorderly Brexit severely disrupts Britain’s and EU countries’ economies.”

“Ensuring an orderly withdrawal and legal certainty were, since the very beginning, among the concerns mostly reiterated by the EU. Our highest priorities have consistently been protecting those citizens whose lives are most affected by the decision of the UK to withdraw and avoiding a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, thus safeguarding the Good Friday Agreement. After the Commons vote this has, however, become more difficult.”

Hubner concluded by saying, “Now we all must prepare for the worst possible scenario. The Commission has been working on preparedness measures as well as on contingency planning for the no-deal scenario; it will continue to do so in the weeks to come."

"However, a ‘no-deal’ is not the result that the EU and its Member States sought and worked for. The EU has worked in earnest to negotiate and conclude a deal that was balanced and fair, ensuring an orderly withdrawal and constituting a sound basis for a credible and sustainable future relationship.”

About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at The Parliament Magazine

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