Monday 20 August 2018

MEPs urge EU leaders to delay Brexit talks verdict

European Chief Negotiator for Brexit Michel Barnier delivers a speech on the
progress of the Brexit talks at the European Parliament in Strasbourg
European Chief Negotiator for Brexit Michel Barnier delivers a speech on the progress of the Brexit talks at the European Parliament in Strasbourg

Colm Kelpie and Shona Murray

the vast majority of MEPS have urged EU leaders to postpone their assessment of whether "sufficient progress" has been made in the Brexit talks unless a breakthrough can be found in the next round of negotiations.

They overwhelmingly backed a resolution calling for the delay as negotiators prepare to enter the latest round of talks next week.

The fifth round will take place before a summit of leaders in Brussels the following week, during which heads of state will decide whether the talks process can move on to the next phase. Sufficient progress must be deemed to have been made in three key areas in the talks process - citizens rights, financial obligations and Ireland - before the process can move on to talks about the future relationship.

But with just over a fortnight to go until the summit, Europe's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said yesterday that more work needed to be done.

"The Prime Minister's speech in Florence was conciliatory. But speeches are not negotiating positions," Mr Juncker said. "We have not yet made the sufficient progress needed."

Mr Barnier told the European Parliament Mrs May had made some openings in her Florence speech and that the UK negotiation team began last week translating these openings into concrete proposals.

He said that the UK and EU teams were "converging on the common principles" that would guide the response to Ireland.

He said both sides recognise that Ireland is in a unique situation and that any solution must be fully informed by the particular circumstances on the island. And he reiterated that solutions - which the onus is on Britain to come up with - must respect the integrity of the EU's legal order, as well as the Good Friday Agreement.

"At this stage, it is particularly important to ensure the concrete modalities of continuing the numerous North-South cooperation schemes provided for in this agreement and the continuation of the Common Travel Area, which requires precise and detailed work, and which we are engaging in constructively with the British side."

He said he believed advancements could be made on the issue of citizens rights.

"Alongside these positive points, there are still serious divergences, in particular on the financial settlement," Mr Barnier added.

"On this point, we simply expect commitments taken at 28 to be honoured at 28. It is as simple as that. That taxpayers and the 27 member states do not have to pay for the consequences of a decision they did not make. No more, no less."

He also said there are "points of divergence" on citizens' rights, and that the EU shares the worry of British citizens overseas and EU citizens in the UK.

The European Parliament resolution passed by 557 votes to 92, with 29 abstentions.

The parliament, although not involved in the talks process, must sign off on any final withdrawal deal.

Meanwhile, German MEP Manfred Waber called on Mrs May to "sack" Boris Johnson. Mr Weber added that the "top question" at the moment is: "Who shall I call in London that speaks for the British government?"

Irish Independent

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