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#Brexit steering group in the European Parliament rejects renegotiation of the Withdrawal Agreement

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The European Parliament’s newly constituted Brexit Steering Group, which will continue to be chaired by Guy Verhofstadt MEP (pictured), discussed the prospect of working with the new British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, with the EU's Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier today (24 July).

Barnier tweeted to congratulate Boris Johnson and to say that he was looking forward to working with him on achieving an orderly Brexit.

The European Parliament reiterated its view, which has senior members from each of its most powerful groups, except the far right (ID) and the European Conservatives and Reformers group (ECR): “The Brexit Steering Group (BSG) wishes Mr Johnson, the new UK Prime Minister, well and looks forward to working closely and constructively with him and his Government. It will find the BSG, and the European Parliament, to be an open and effective partner in the Brexit process.

"The BSG remains very strongly of the view that, in the event that the UK decides not to revoke Article 50 and stay in the European Union, an orderly exit of the UK from the European Union is in the overwhelming interests of both parties.

"The parliament has restated its commitment to an orderly Brexit but makes it clear that they are sticking to the agreement with the UK (European Council Decision (EU) 2019/584) that the Withdrawal Agreement will not be opened during the extension period, which ends on 31 October.

"They are, however, open to considering changes to the Political Declaration, in particular if such changes provided for much greater detail and a more ambitious future EU-UK partnership such that deployment of the Irish backstop would not be necessary.”

Regarding a no-deal Brexit

“The BSG notes that recent statements, not least those made during the Conservative Party leadership campaign, have greatly increased the risk of a disorderly exit of the UK. It points out that a no-deal exit would be economically very damaging, even if such damage would not be inflicted equally on both parties.

"It commends the preparedness and contingency measures taken by the EU Institutions and 27 member states in preparation for a no-deal exit, but stresses that such an exit will not be mitigated by any form of arrangements or mini deals between the EU and the UK. The BSG recalls that there is no transition period without a withdrawal agreement. It reiterates the European Parliament’s determination to ensure that, in a no-deal scenario, there would be no disruption for EU citizens in the UK or for UK citizens in the EU, whose rights should be fully safeguarded.”

Next steps

The BSG will continue to monitor the situation and, working in close liaison with the Parliament’s Conference of Presidents and the EU’s Chief Negotiator, is ready to meet at short notice should this be necessary.

The new Brexit Steering Group has made two changes to its team. MEPs Elmar Brok (EPP, DE) is replaced by former European Parliament Presdient, Antonio Tajani (EPP, IT). The GUE/NGL group (Nordic Green Left Group) have replaced Gabi Zimmer (GUE/NGL, DE) with Martin Schirdewan (GUE/NGL, DE).

Members of the Brexit Steering Group

Guy Verhofstadt
Danuta Hübner
Roberto Gualtieri
Philippe Lamberts
Martin Schirdewan
Antonio Tajani

Brexit

EU tells Brexit negotiator: Don't let deadline force bad trade deal

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The European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator told member states’ envoys on Wednesday (2 December) that negotiations on a trade deal with Britain were reaching “a make-or-break moment”, and they urged him not to be rushed into an unsatisfactory agreement, write .

Four diplomats told Reuters after a briefing by Michel Barnier that the talks remained snagged - as they have been for months - on fishing rights in British waters, ensuring fair competition guarantees and ways to solve future disputes.

“He said the coming days will be decisive,” said a senior EU diplomat who took part in the briefing, just over four weeks before the end-of-year deadline for a deal to avoid what could be an economically damaging divorce.

Speaking under condition of anonymity, the diplomat said Barnier did not specify a date by which an agreement must be clinched, but time will be needed for all 27 member states and the European Parliament to approve it before 31 December.

“Swift progress is of the essence,” David McAllister, who chairs a Brexit group in the European Parliament, said on Twitter. “An agreement needs to be reached within very few days if (the European) Council and Parliament are to complete their respective procedures before the end of the transition period.”

Britain formally left the EU on 31 January after 47 years of membership but then entered a transition period under which EU laws apply until the end of this year to give citizens and businesses time to adapt.

EU rules for the internal market and the EU Customs Union will not apply to Britain from Jan. 1.

Failure to secure a trade deal would snarl borders, spook financial markets and disrupt delicate supply chains that stretch across Europe and beyond, just as countries grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Another senior EU diplomat said several member states would rather see negotiations continue past the end of the transition phase even if that means a brief “no deal” period.

“We need to continue negotiating as long as needed. We cannot sacrifice long-term interests because of short-term timetable issues,” the envoy said after Barnier’s briefing.

“There is a worry that because of this pressure of time there is a temptation to rush. We told him: don’t do that.”

The first diplomat said there was no discussion at the meeting of ambassadors of negotiating past 31 December.

A British government official said London would not agree to extending the transition period with the EU, and Britain has repeatedly ruled out any extension to the talks into next year. London blames the EU for the impasse at talks.

A third EU diplomat said it was still unclear whether negotiators could bridge the gaps on the three main sticking points but some member states were becoming “a bit jittery”.

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EU's Barnier says upcoming UK legislation could push Brexit talks into crisis - RTE

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European Union Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier told ambassadors that Brexit talks would be thrust into crisis if UK legislation expected next week includes clauses that would breach the existing withdrawal agreement, RTE reported on Wednesday (2 December), writes William James.

“The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier has told EU ambassadors that if the UK Finance Bill, expected next week, contains clauses that breach international law [ie, that breach the NI Protocol] then the Brexit talks will be ‘in crisis’ and there will be a breakdown in trust,” RTE’s Europe Editor Tony Connelly said on Twitter, citing two unnamed sources.

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EU and Britain quickly approaching make or break moment in trade talks - EU diplomat

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Britain and the European Union are quickly approaching a make or break moment in talks on a trade deal and it is not clear if an agreement can be reached because of differences on three main issues, an EU diplomat said today (2 December), write Jan Strupczewski and John Chalmers.

The EU and Britain are negotiating a trade deal that would regulate their business relationship from next year, after the end of Britain’s transition period after its exit from the EU.

But negotiators cannot overcome differences on fisheries, state aid for companies and future dispute resolution.

“We are quickly approaching a make or break moment in the Brexit talks. Intensive negotiations are continuing in London. As of this morning it is still unclear whether negotiators can bridge the gaps on issues like level playing, governance and fisheries,” the EU diplomats said.

“As we are entering the endgame of the Brexit negotiations, some member states are becoming a bit jittery. So this was mostly an exercise to calm nerves in Paris and elsewhere and to reassure member states that team Barnier will continue to defend core EU interests including on fisheries,” the diplomat said.

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