Britain Must Make Clear What It Wants On Brexit – Angela Merkel

by Samuel Abasi Posted on September 25th, 2018

Berlin, Germany : Angela Merkel has said Britain cannot pick and choose which parts of the single market it wants to keep after Brexit. The chancellor insisted that Germany would stand up against any attempts to hollow out global trade.

The UK still has to decide exactly what it wants out of negotiations with the European Union on Brexit, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday, adding six to eight weeks of hard work lie ahead to reach a possible deal in October.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday dismissed hopes in Westminister that the UK could continue have access to the EU single market for goods only after Brexit.

“The economy needs clarity… What is important is what Britain really wants – the discussion there is not so clear,” Merkel told a German business audience, adding Britain cannot belong to one part of the single market but not the other three.

Merkel nevertheless remained confident that the UK and EU would still manage to reach a deal by October.

Merkel stance on Brexit

Addressing business leaders at a Federation of German Industries (BDI) conference in Berlin, the German chancellor said:

The UK could not remain a part of the single market for goods, but not for capital or services, as UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plan suggests.

Based on the UK’s vision of a future relationship with the EU, it would likely be based on a “very, very intensive free trade area.”

Any future deal should be as detailed as possible, otherwise the Brexit transition period until the end of 2020 would be too short a time frame to draw up a comprehensive agreement.

Europe’s economies are suffering on the back of Brexit uncertainty. “Business need clarity,” which was why the EU has some its “hardest days” ahead.

Brexit deadlock: Theresa May urges EU to compromise

The EU and the UK look no closer to a deal, as UK Prime Minister Theresa May has ruled out a second referendum and has urged the EU to “evolve its position.” A Brexit summit will be held in November, leaders announced.

European leaders gathered in the Austrian city of Salzburg on Thursday for the second day of an informal summit. One of the main issues is the deadlocked negotiations on Brexit, the final agreement on which was supposed to be inked in October. On Thursday, however, EU leaders announced a special Brexit summit is to be held in November.

The other major talking points are immigration, a major policy point for Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, whose government holds the rotating EU presidency, and security in the bloc.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May told EU leaders on Wednesday that Britain has “put forward serious and workable proposals” and that it was now up to the EU to “respond in kind” and “evolve its position.”

What the key players said at the summit:

Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl told DW that while the EU member states disagreed on many things, there was “no friction when it comes to Brexit. There is a high degree of cohesion.”

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar: Ireland is a country that obviously wants to avoid a no-deal scenario…[but] we are preparing for that, we are hiring extra staff and officials, putting in IT systems, we’re ready for that eventuality should it occur.”

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker: “It was interesting, it was polite, it was not aggressive. She [May] is doing her job.”

EU Council President Donald Tusk: Despite progress in some areas, on the two thorniest issues of the Irish border and post-Brexit trade ties, “the UK’s proposals will need to be reworked.” He said a no-deal scenario was “still quite possible.”

French President Emmanuel Macron: “We [the EU] need to continue to act as a group, make sure we approach this as the EU-27.” He stressed that a “solution needs to be found, but it shouldn’t jeopardize the coherence and the four freedoms of the single market.”

Brexit as it stands

A major summit planned for October 18 was being treated as the last chance for a concrete deal for Brexit, which is supposed to go into effect on April 1. The November summit announced on Thursday is now seen as the deadline to reach a deal, which will have to be ratified by the EU legislature, all member states’ parliaments, and the UK Parliament.

May has put paid to hints within her own government on a possible second referendum on Brexit, telling EU leaders that it is not an option.

The two main sticking points that remain unsolved are:how to regulate the border between Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK, and the Republic of Ireland, which is an independent EU member, as well as Britain’s future trade negotiations with the EU. May told EU leaders that she won’t accept an EU proposal for Northern Ireland to remain in the customs union while future trade ties are being negotiated.

Migration to the EU

EU leaders are also under pressure to come up with a compromise on immigration, after a joint summit in June produced a deal scant on details.

While most countries agree on strengthening the border control agency Frontex, they still disagree on suggestions to redistribute refugees proportionally throughout the bloc. Countries like Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary do not look likely to change their hard-line stance against this plan.

There are also disagreements across the bloc about which North African countries can be relied upon to set up schemes to stop migrants attempting the dangerous sea crossing to Europe, although many have praised Egypt for its efforts thus far.

European Council President Donald Tusk accused member states of playing “the migration blame game” and urged them to create a bloc-wide solution to the issue.

EU also preparing for ‘No Deal Brexit’

The UK and the EU cannot find common ground on Ireland and future trade. The EU has accused Britain of trying to cherry-pick parts of the union it wants to keep.

Although the atmosphere in the Austrian city of Salzburg was friendly on Thursday, it appeared that the UK and the EU were no closer to solving the most intractable issues at hand: how to avoid imposing a harder border on the island of Ireland and how to handle future trade.

Concern was mounting at the informal summit that no final Brexit deal would be approved ahead of the March 31, 2019 deadline and that there would be no plan for a smooth and orderly British exit from the bloc.

“Everybody shared the view that while there are positive elements in the [UK] proposal, the suggested framework for economic cooperation will not work, not least because it risks undermining the single market,” said European Council President Donald Tusk.

However, moments later, British Prime Minister Theresa May said that her plan was the only “serious and credible” one on the table.

Matching repeated similar messages from May’s side in recent weeks, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that the EU had “made more preparations for a no deal.”

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar also said that his government was making large-scale preparations for the event of a “No Deal Brexit.”

Some consensus on Ireland, none on trade

While both Britain and the EU agree that imposing a hard Irish border would threaten a very hard-won peace on the island, May insisted that there was no way she could allow anyone to “divide the United Kingdom into two customs territories.”

She promised that the UK would be putting forward its own proposal for the Irish border soon. The current border proposal is only a so-called “backstop,” to be implemented in the case of a no-deal Brexit. Both sides aim to reach a deal that solves the issue.

As for trade, there remained little agreement between the two parties. May has sought to arrange for continued free movement of goods despite otherwise leaving the single market, but the EU has been firm that the UK is not allowed to cherry-pick.

“Europe isn’t an a la carte menu,” said French President Emmanuel Macron.

An official EU summit set for October 18-19 was previously considered the “last chance” for a formal Brexit deal, as any plan must be approved by the UK Parliament, the European Parliament, and the individual legislatures of all 27 remaining EU member states. However, leaders are now preparing for an extended timeline.

“It was clear today that we need substantial progress by October and that we then aim to finalize everything in November,” said German Chancellor Angela Merkel. “There is a lot of common ground on the basis of [the UK plan], especially in the area of domestic security and also foreign cooperation and other issues, but there is still a lot of work to do on the question of how future trade relations will look.”

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Samuel Abasi

Samuel Abasi

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