Serious disagreements risk hindering a smooth Brexit

Thursday, 2019-03-21 13:20:32
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EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier warns that any long Brexit delay will pile on economic and political costs for the bloc. (Photo: Reuters)
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NDO – The issue of Brexit (the UK leaving the European Union - EU) is expected to become a key content of a summit between the EU leaders taking place on March 21-22. However, with the disagreements inside the UK as well as between the UK and the EU over the Brexit deal still remaining serious, the conference will hardly make any breakthroughs towards the UK being able to leave the “European common house” in the near future.

As scheduled, the UK will officially withdraw from the EU this March 29. Nevertheless, the UK House of Commons rejected the Brexit agreement in its second vote, thus pushing the country into a position of having to ask the EU to technically extend the Brexit deadline until June.

There is, however, no answer for what will happen after the delay of Brexit, in the context of serious disagreements both within the UK and between the UK and the EU about the deal. The UK House of Commons opposed to the contents of the Brexit agreement, which was put to a vote by the government, because it had failed to give fundamental changes compared to the agreement rejected twice by the House previously. The Speaker of the House of Commons announced that the Brexit deal should not continue to be brought to voting if there are no fundamental changes, while criticising the government for bringing the same or basically the same “old proposals” to vote for a third time as being absurd. Facing the aforementioned disagreements, the UK’s Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn wrote a letter to MPs of all parties at the House of Commons, calling on them to join together to discuss ways to break the deadlock so that Brexit may go smoothly.

While the UK has yet to reach a common internal voice on the Brexit issue, the disagreements between the country and the EU have not been narrowed yet either. The UK media stated that UK Prime Minister Theresa May sent a motion to the EU asking for the bloc’s approval of the extension of the Brexit deadline until June 30. However, EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier claimed that the EU will not approve the delay of the Brexit deadline if London fails to give a specific plan on what it is going to do during that extended period of time.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany is willing to make efforts for an “orderly” Brexit but insisted that PM May had to change the farewell agreement, which had been rejected twice by the House of Commons.

In addition to disagreements over the Brexit deal, the European officials have recently expressed their “impatience” towards the UK’s prolonged and deadlocked Brexit process. Germany’s European affairs minister, Michael Roth, said Brexit is not a game and that the EU is worn out by two years of tortuous and interminable negotiations over the UK’s departure from the bloc. Germany has called for clear and precise proposals from the UK government, he said.

The prolonged Brexit process has already made, and will continue to make both the UK and the EU pay the price. In recent days, European media has warned that a “hard Brexit” could rock the rest of the continent in many ways that many EU citizens are unaware of, from chaotic air traffic to the paralysed seaports and the precarious fate of millions of workers. Speaking before the EU summit, EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier warned that any delay of Brexit will cause economic and political costs for the bloc; therefore, this should be carefully considered and compared with potential benefits. Barnier stressed that the lack of a clear plan will add to the economic costs of businesses and may also entail political losses for the EU.

The Brexit process has lasted for the past two years without signs of reaching the “finishing line”. UK Minister for the Cabinet Office David Lidington has warned their MPs that Brexit may face an “enduring process”. In that context, the summit of EU leaders on March 21-22 is forecasted to create hardly any breakthroughs for Brexit. At the same time, the postponement of the Brexit deadline after June 30 means that the UK still has to participate in elections at the European Parliament (EP) on May 24 and 26, which could possibly lead the Brexit roadmap to be extended indefinitely.