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12 September 2019

EurActiv: Irish backstop must be part of Brexit deal, says EU Parliament chief

There will be no Brexit deal without an Irish backstop, EP President David Sassoli said. However, the EU is willing to revive a proposal that would keep only Northern Ireland in the bloc’s orbit to maintain a seamless border to Ireland, and was open to giving the UK another extension, he said.

EU leaders will reconvene in Brussels on 16-17 October for the next European Council summit where it will be the last chance for London to strike a deal in time for an 31 October exit. [...]

“We want an agreement but we are aware that an agreement without a backstop wouldn’t work,” Sassoli told a news conference after attending a briefing meeting with Michel Barnier, who leads the European Commission’s Brexit Task Force. “There can’t be an agreement without a backstop. There won’t be one.”

“I would like to stress this point: the United Kingdom hasn’t provided any alternatives … anything that has been workable,” said Sassoli, who hails from Italy’s centre-left Democratic Party.

Sassoli said any departure without a deal would only ever be Britain’s choice and that the bloc was ready to analyse any concrete proposals from London on replacing the backstop.

“We are willing to go back to the original EU proposal which is that a backstop will only be added for Northern Ireland.” [...]

MEPs have drafted a motion on Brexit to be debated and voted on in the European Parliament’s next Strasbourg plenary session to “approve the work that has been done so far, stress the unity on the EU and institution side.”

The draft resolution suggests that MEPs are open to an extension, though Sassoli said that this could only be if the UK held an election or referendum. It also states that if there is a no deal departure that will be entirely the responsibility of the United Kingdom, language which can be interpreted as a retort to UK politicians who have accused the EU of being intransigent and unwilling to compromise in the negotiations.

The Parliament chief added that the EU would also be prepared to re-open the Political Declaration which accompanies the Withdrawal Agreement and sets out the parameters of future EU-UK relations “making it into a legally binding document”.

However, he expressed scepticism that the talks were moving forward following Barnier’s assessment of the Brexit talks.

“Unfortunately the signals that we’re getting aren’t indicating that there’s any initiative that could reopen the negotiations, and we’re unhappy about that.”

Full article on EurActiv

Related press release: Brexit: new European Parliament reaffirms wholehearted support for EU position

Related article on Financial Times: Barnier says Brexit situation is ‘serious and uncertain’


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