Brussels Brexit Briefing – 19th July

Westminster

Key EU figures have put pressure on Theresa May to move fast to quit the EU. European Parliament President Martin Schulz called on her to invoke Article 50 after the summer, saying her government must give “the utmost consideration” to the European Parliament, which has the power to veto the UK’s EU divorce and any future trade deal. In an article for the Guardian, Mr Schulz called for talks to begin “without rancour” and for Britain to be thought of as a beloved relative leaving home rather than a treacherous renegade.

However, EU officials have acknowledged they have no powers to force the UK to trigger Article 50. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, at a summit in China, offered conciliatory words for Mrs May, saying that the UK will face no “hate” or “revenge” during the Brexit talks. “I will not negotiate with Britain in a hostile mood. We have been partners in the EU for 40 years. We are allied countries, most of us in the North Atlantic Alliance,” he said.

Others were more hostile. The European Parliament’s Socialist group leader, Gianni Pittella was scathing about David Cameron. “The UK finally has a new Prime minister. Goodbye Cameron, nobody will miss you,” he said. He also urged Mrs May to make clear that a lot of what was promised in the referendum campaign is neither feasible nor desirable. “If you want to have full access to the single market then you will have to accept the principle of free movement and will have to follow the rules that govern it,” he said.

The reaction to the appointment of Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary has been astonishment, with former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt saying, “British humour has no borders”. British Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder noted that having made a career “making up myths about EU” Johnson’s appointment “will do more damage to Britain’s standing in Europe and the world”. Belgian liberal MEP Gérard Deprez greeted the appointment of Boris Johnson with the tweet, “Welcome to the Royal Buffoon!”

There is also talk about reshuffling the EU’s rotating presidency to avoid the UK taking up its scheduled six-month term in the second half of 2017. The following two presidencies are Estonia in the first half of 2018, Bulgaria in the second half of 2018. Their presidencies could now be brought forward by six months.

Words  Leo Cendrowicz
Photo CC/Flickr Takashi Hososhima

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