Brexit, Or The Gift That Keeps On Giving, Op-Ed By Eszter Kantor Our EU Politics Expert.
Yesterday wasn`t Theresa May`s lucky day at the EU summit. Not for the reasons you might first think, but mostly because she couldn`t get the attention she was hoping. The first main topic at the European Council meeting on Thursday was migration. Talks on migration were supposed to finish that evening, but Italy refused to sign any agreement that is not an effective solution. They were not willing to settle for a vague political text that changes nothing, i.e. Italy would continue to house millions, while some other EU countries are basically dealing with a couple of hundred migrants. This took over the entire day and a solution finally came about Friday morning.
Nonetheless, Theresa May managed to give a brief speech on Thursday during dinner, summing up where Brexit negotiations stand. This was just one of the topics during dinner where most of the attention was still on migration. Brexit was back on the agenda today along with other topics such as the reform of the European Parliament, the proposed common budget for euro zone countries and response to the new US tariffs.
There are many strategic EU-level projects happening at the same time which basically scale down the importance of Brexit. It is not a dominant subject anymore as Member States are increasingly unimpressed with developments and lack of detail from the UK. Naturally, some member states are more involved than others due to the varying levels of economic relations to the UK, but overall interest in Brexit is eroding. Member States were hoping that by June there would be an agreement at least on the text of the withdrawal agreement, this is not the case as the EU`s proposal to keep NI in the single market and avoid having a border on Ireland was, so far, rejected by the UK. Without a viable counter proposal talks are stuck.
Here is the EU Commission’s conclusion on Brexit. Clear and straight forward. More needs to be done on the withdrawal agreement not only with regard to Northern Ireland but also Gibraltar. The text puts the pressure on the UK team to come up with a viable alternative to the EU solution and included a warning that "negotiations can only progress as long as all commitments undertaken so far are respected in full."
Michel Barnier offered to hold emergency Brexit talks with David Davis' team on Monday as he warned there are still 'huge and serious gaps' between the two sides.
Member States are also reminding the UK to reconsider its red lines and in response they willing to be more flexible. "The European Council recalls that if the UK positions were to evolve, the Union will be prepared to reconsider its offer in accordance with the principles stated in the guidelines of 29 April and 15 December 2017as well as of 23 March 2018."
This is meant to help Theresa May in arguing for a more relaxed attitude when facing her political opponents i.e. accepting the four freedoms of the EU. Something which Fashion Roundtable have clearly advocated for in our Brexit Paper.
Offers don`t come better or clearer than this. I also believe this is a last-ditch effort to move things along by the EU and I can only hope that Theresa May and David Davis heed this clarion call.