Brexit: Barnier suggests EU might not grant long article 50 extension unless May backs customs union – live news | Politics | The Guardian9 Aprile 2019 0 Di Luna Rossa
Rolling coverage of the day’s political developments as they happen, including Theresa May’s talks with Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron, and MPs debating how long the article 50 extension should be
Barnier says the length of an article 50 extension would have to be linked to its purpose.
George Ciamba, the Romanian foreign affairs minister, says the EU will take two things into account; the fact that the UK is holding European elections, and the talks with Labour.
Barnier says the EU has prepared for all options. The EU does not want to see no-deal, he says.
And that’s it. The press conference is over.
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Q: There have been reports in the UK saying Angela Merkel is considering a five-year extension. Are those reports true?
Barnier says he has no information to that effect.
Q: You seem to be suggesting that it won’t be enough for May to say she is in talks with open. You seem to be implying that she will have to say she is open to a customs union. Is that right?
Barnier says he can express an opinion on the customs union.
At an event the other day he said he could only give an opinion on this. It was for the UK to make a choice, he says.
He says he knows a lot about France, but also about big exporting countries like Germany. Germany is in the EU. But it is still a big exporting country.
He says France and Germany think it is in their interests to be in a common trading block. They speak with a single voice when speaking to President Trump, or to China.
He says the French and Germans see that as in their national interests.
He says Labour, and some in the Conservative party, support a customs union. The British business community supports it too, he says. He says these are facts he is noting.
He says Labour wants a customs union. The EU is ready for that, subject to the facts he set out.
Barnier suggests EU might not grant long article 50 extension unless May backs customs union
Barnier says an orderly withdrawal has been the EU’s objective, not least because of the need for talks in the second stage.
The UK will remain a friend, partner and ally, he says.
He says, ahead of tomorrow’s summit, they have examined the way forward.
He says the EU needs a timeline or roadmap from the UK.
A new element is the start of cross-party discussions in London.
He says at today’s meeting they all expressed their hopes in respect of these talks. They all want a positive result, he says, that might allow a positive majority to emerge for a deal.
If the UK wants to leave the EU in an orderly fashion, the only way to do so is on the basis of the withdrawal agreement.
He says the withdrawal agreement will not be reopened. That continues to be the case.
The political declaration (PD) can be improved, he says, if the UK wants.
He says the UK and the EU could add to the free trade agreement already proposed in the PD a customs union. This could be added rapidly, “within a few hours or days”, he says.
- Barnier says the EU could rewrite the political declaration “within hours or days” if the UK chose a customs union.
But the request they await from the UK will have to respect that the EU is. He says he is talking about the integrity of the single market, the autonomy of the EU27 and the indivisibility of the four freedoms.
He says the EU is not willing to compromise on the ecosystem behind the single market.
Why is is stressing that the PD could be rewritten? Because that would provide meaning to an extension, he says.
He says he does not want to say more, because this is a matter for EU leaders at the summit tomorrow.
He says the duration of an extension has to be in line with the purpose behind it.
- Barnier suggests the EU might not grant a long article 50 extension unless May backs a customs union.
He says a no-deal Brexit would never be the responsibility of the EU.
If the UK wants to stop no-deal, it can, by revoking article 50.
Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, goes next.
He says for two years he has enjoyed the trust of President Juncker, President Tusk and the European council.
He has attempted to operate “methodically and calmly’, he says.
He says he has proceeded in an orderly fashion.
The EU’s guidelines reflect a desire to be united, he says. He is a worker, hopefully a qualified worker, on behalf of the EU27, nurturing unity.
He says they have been defending the European Union, and its foundations. The UK is familiar with these, he says, because of the single market (which the UK helped to establish).
EU press conference
The EU is holding a press conference after today’s general affairs council.
George Ciamba, the Romanian foreign affairs minister, goes first.
He says the discussions focused on Theresa May’s request for an extension.
He says that most colleagues said prolonging article 50 was an instrument, not a plan.
The UK would have to provide a clear plan to justify an extension, he says.
He says his fellow ministers welcomed the UK’s decision to hold European elections, he says.
He says that no-deal remains a possibility.
He says everybody in the room was united behind the idea that the withdrawal agreement is the best possible agreement and the only possible agreement.
May’s successor will not be bound by any promises she makes to EU now, Rees-Mogg claims
Talking of Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Tory Brexiter, who chairs the European Research Group, has been engaged in more Twitter diplomacy this morning, warning the EU that Theresa May’s successor might not be bound by the assurances she gives EU leaders in Brussels tomorrow.
EU ministers says further article 50 extension could be subject to conditions
EU ministers have been attending a meeting of the EU’s general affairs council in Luxembourg this morning where Brexit has been on the agenda ahead of the summit tomorrow. Several of them stressed that any article 50 extension would come with conditions attached as they spoke to reporters on their way in.
Michael Roth, the German Europe minister, said the situation was “very, very frustrating”. He said the EU would consider Theresa May’s request for an extension lasting just until 30 June, but also perhaps for a “longer one, but this must also be subject to very strict criteria.”
Amelie de Montchalin, the French Europe minister, said:
We want to understand what the UK needs this extension for, and what are the political surroundings around Theresa May to have this extension.
And then comes the question of the conditions of what role we’d want the UK to play during this extension time.
And Simon Coveney, the Irish foreign minister, said:
No-deal in my view would be an an extraordinary failure of politics and we need to ensure that that doesn’t happen.
But of course there needs to be a real plan to go with a request for an extension – that’s credible – in order for that extension to be agreed over the next three days, and I think that’s likely to happen.
Any conditions would be designed to ensure that the UK did not disrupt the EU if allowed to stay, as the Tory Brexiter Jacob Rees-Mogg said it should in a tweet on Friday that received a lot of attention in Brussels.
Bruno Le Maire, the French finance minister, said this morning that Theresa May would have explain why delaying Brexit would lead to the withdrawal agreement being passed for EU leaders to agree to an article 50 extension. He told Franceinfo TV:
There is need for clarity on why the delay and how it will in the end facilitate an agreement.
Asked whether a no-deal was inevitable if May failed, Le Maire replied:
I prefer an agreement. But Theresa May should give us the reasons why she wants the delay and these reasons must be credible.
Leadsom says she hopes Merkel will agree to support withdrawal agreement being reopened
Andrea Leadsom, the Brexiter leader of the Commons, told reporters when she was doorstepped outside her home this morning that she hoped Angela Merkel would agree to support the idea of the withdrawal agreement being renegotiated. Leadsom said:
The prime minister is off to see Angela Merkel today. And what I think would be fantastic is if Angela Merkel will try to support a proper UK Brexit by agreeing to reopen the withdrawal agreement.
There have been rumours over the weekend that some senior members of the German government would be willing to do that in order to get Theresa May’s deal across the line …If we could get the prime minister’s deal over the line because the EU have decided to support measures on the backstop, then that would be the best possible outcome.
It was not clear what Leadsom was referring to, but she may have been inspired by this tweet from her fellow Tory Brexiter Greg Hands.
Some Tory Brexiters still cling to the belief that, in response to a bit more pressure from the UK, the EU will agree to re-open the withdrawal agreement and amend it to give the UK a legally-binding right to leave it unilaterally.
But EU leaders have repeatedly ruled this out, and Downing Street accepts this and has long since given up asking for changes of this kind.
So why is Leadsom raising this as a possibility? It is either extreme wishful thinking or – what is much more likely – she wants to reassure Brexiters in the Tory party that she has not given up on the fight for backstop rewrite. (Leadsom was runner up in the leadership contest in 2016 and has not ruled out trying again.)
Tomorrow night EU leaders will decide whether to grant the UK another article 50 extension, delaying Brexit. If they say no, the UK will have to leave at 11pm on Friday. Another extension is likely, but it may come with some unpalatable conditions. This afternoon MPs will debate Theresa May’s proposal for an extension lasting until 30 June. But the UK won’t even be in the room when the EU27 decide their offer, and today May will be visiting Berlin and Paris to speak to Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron to press her case. In a speech in 2016 during the EU referendum campaign Michael Gove, the co-leader of Vote Leave who is now environment secretary, declared: “The day after we vote to leave we hold all the cards and we can choose the path we want.” Today, as May visits Germany and France in the role of supplicant, she will demonstrate quite how monumentally wrong Gove’s prediction turned out to be.
Here is a preview story from my colleague Daniel Boffey.
And here is a Guardian analysis of what Berlin and Paris are both looking for.
Merkel and Macron, and other EU leaders, want the UK to agree a Brexit deal, and they will be asking May about the chances of her talks with Labour producing a compromise solution that could get through parliament. But this morning on the Today programme David Gauke, the justice secretary, did not raise hopes that a breakthrough was imminent. Asked if there would be an agreement with Labour in the next 24 hours, he replied:
I’m not going to make a prediction in terms of where we are going to get to. But, from what I hear, both sides – I certainly know our side – are keen to engage, but I’m hearing that about the Labour side as well. So I hope we can make progress.
Here is the agenda for the day.
11am (UK time): Theresa May meets Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, in Berlin.
11am: The EU holds a briefing on consumer and employment rights after Brexit.
11.30am: Philip Hammond, the chancellor, takes questions in the Commons.
12pm: Cabinet ministers Matt Hancock, Penny Mordaunt and Michael Gove, and Tom Tugendhat, chair of the Commons foreign affairs committee, speak at the launch of a report from the thinktank Onward on the age gap in politics. Given the line-up, it is being seen a effectively a hustings for the forthcoming Tory leadership contest.
12pm: Tory Brexiters Mark Francois, Andrew Bridgen and Anne Marie Morris speak at a Bruges Group event headed “No delay, no capitulation – no deal”. (Note: this is not seen by lobby journalists as a parade of leadership contenders.)
Afternoon: MPs will debate a government motion saying the PM should seek an article 50 extension lasting until 30 June. This debate is taking place because of the Yvette Cooper bill that received royal assent last night.
5pm (UK time): May meets Emmanuel Macron, the French president, in Paris.
As usual, I will be covering breaking political news as it happens, as well as bringing you the best reaction, comment and analysis from the web, although I expect to be focusing mostly on Brexit. I plan to post a summary at lunchtime and another when I wrap up.
You can read all the latest Guardian politics articles here. Here isthe Politico Europe round-up of this morning’s political news. And here is the PoliticsHome list of today’s top 10 must-reads.
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