Speaking in Parliament, Greens co-leader Philippe Lamberts said, “Boris Johnson recently had the perfect chance to fire Cummings but did not do so. This shows who is calling the shots in the government and Conservative Party.”
Dominic Cummings has never been far away from the news and was most recently in the headlines for allegedly breaking the UK’s lockdown rules.
Johnson came under pressure to sack his key advisor after it emerged that he had driven 260 miles from his home in London to Durham during lockdown. Johnson refused to dismiss him and Cummings remains in his post.
Lamberts, who was briefing reporters on a parliamentary resolution on Brexit, said he is pessimistic about an agreement being reached between the EU and UK by the end of the year when the transition period runs out.
The MEP, a member of Parliament's 12-strong UK Coordination Group, said, “To be honest, I do not think we will have a deal with the UK. This is because there is no political will on the UK side for this.”
“Boris Johnson recently had the perfect chance to fire Cummings but did not do so. This shows who is calling the shots in the government and Conservative Party” Philippe Lamberts MEP
“I recall what Boris Johnson and David Frost [the UK’s chief Brexit negotiator] both said at the very start of these talks. They said that the whole point of Brexit was that EU legislation would no longer apply to the UK and nor would Britain be bound by decisions made by the European Court of Justice. For the UK that is the point of Brexit.”
“The UK wants to sever all ties with the EU and this cannot be reconciled with what the EU wants.”
The Belgian member said, “There may be some in the Tory Party who want a soft Brexit but they are not in a position to set the government line while others [like Cummings] are.”
“This all means that a no-deal Brexit at the end of the year is almost certain. One country will be severely affected by a no deal - Ireland - so I hope the UK will comply with its obligations regarding the province.”
On Friday, MEPs adopted the resolution on Brexit that “fully supports” the EU's negotiating position and rejected the UK’s intention to select certain policy areas on which to negotiate “while ignoring others.”
In the resolution MEPs also call for commitments to be met faithfully, among others in the interest of UK citizens in the EU and EU citizens in the UK.
Speaking afterwards at a news conference, the assembly's President David Sassoli said there was a “broad consensus” in Parliament in support of the EU's position on Brexit.
“There may be some in the Tory Party who want a soft Brexit but they are not in a position to set the government line while others are” Philippe Lamberts MEP
He told reporters, “MEPs have already expressed their views on Brexit. We want to do everything to reach a deal and I believe there is still time to get agreement. But we must also prepare for a no deal because if there is no agreement we need to be ready for it.”
“This message reflects the positions of all the EU institutions, not just Parliament. The EU is very united in its dialogue with the UK.”
Further comment came from Socialist member Paolo de Castro, shadow rapporteur on the future EU/UK partnership, who said, “With the clock running down and the UK government deciding not to extend the transition period, the risk of no deal is increasingly real.”
“When combined with the economic and social damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, a no-deal between the EU and the UK will have highly damaging consequences and the UK will bear the brunt of the pain. We are doing everything in our possibilities to avoid this cliff-edge scenario.”
“Both the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration agreed by Boris Johnson just 8 months ago are there to give security to citizens, stability to producers and direction to negotiators on both sides of the Channel. We will not accept any backtracking on these commitments.”
With just over 200 days left before the end of the transition period on 31 December, he added, “There are obvious time pressures in the negotiations, and this week the European Parliament has made it clear that this is a result of the UK’s choices. But the EU position is clear and we are united in standing our ground to deliver what’s already been agreed.”
Last week, in a joint debate on UK-EU relations, MEPs said the EU should not back a deal “at any cost.”
Several speakers said both parties have to stick to the Political Declaration, signed by the UK and the EU last year, which provides a framework for a future relationship.