Opening of European parliament debate – Highlights
Here are some of the trial quotes from the European parliament hearing.
- Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European commission, criticised the UK government for engaging in a “blame game”. He said Brexit was the choice of the British people. He went on:
Although we are respecting that choice. As it stands, we will remain in discussion with the United Kingdom on the terms of its departure.
And, personally, I don’t exclude a deal. We are, Michel [Barnier] and myself, working on a deal.
And we are not accepting this blame game which started in London.
- Juncker said the British should not forget the need for the European parliament to agree any Brexit deal.
I would like to repeat to the attention of our British friends that there is not only a parliament in Westminster which has to agree, there is a parliament here.
- Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, said an agreement was not currently possible. He said:
To put things very frankly, though, and to try and be objective, this particular point, we are not really in a position where we are able to find an agreement.
- David Sassoli, president of the European parliament, said that any Brexit extension should be to allow the British public to express their views – either through an election, or a referendum. He also revealed that he had discussed Brexit with the Commons Speaker, John Bercow. (See 2.45pm.)
Boris Johnson tells Tory MPs if Brexit delayed he would not fight election on no deal platform
This is from my colleague Rowena Mason.
Obviously, this does not mean Boris Johnson has given up trying to take the UK out of the EU on 31 October.
It means that, if Brexit does get extended against his wishes, and he has to fight an election, he says he will not campaign on a Brexit party-style no-deal platform, as an unnamed No 10 insider (almost universally assumed to be Dominic Cummings) told the Spectator earlier this week.
Michel Barnier has now finished. Here is some comment on what he had to say.
From the BBC’s Adam Fleming
From Mail Online’s James Tapsfield
From RTE’s Tony Connelly
Barnier says there are other issues dividing the two sides, including what to put in the political declaration.
He says there is a risk of having just a very basic free trade agreement. That might involve tax dumping and social regulation dumping (ie, the UK trying to undercut the EU.)
He says the EU wants a fair and level playing field.
He says, when Brexit happens, it will be long term.
He says it is creating serious and specific problems. We need operational, legally-binding solutions – today, not tomorrow.
He says the EU will remain calm, vigilant and constructive. And he says it will be respectful of the UK and its leaders.
He says he will be available 24/7 in the coming days to try to reach an agreement.
He will respect his mandate, he says.
He says it might be “very difficult”. But, he goes on:
If there is goodwill on both sides, I think an agreement is still possible.
Barnier turns to his third point – the consent mechanism.
He says the EU wants a more important role for the Northern Irish institutions.
He says the UK plan would involve a unilateral decision being taken by the Northern Irish authorities. That means they could unilaterally decide not to introduce these arrangements.
Barnier turns to the second issue.
There must be operational solutions, he says.
He says the UK plan does not give the same security as the backstop, because it relies on ideas being worked out during the transition.
The UK propose having a joint committee to find solutions during the transition. But what happens if it can’t?
The UK or the EU would then have to impose unilateral checks. But what would happen if the UK did not enforce any checks?
He says the UK plan has led to three concerns.
First, the border issue. Boris Johnson has rejected the backstop, a safety net agreed with Theresa May, he says.
He says the UK and the EU agree on regulatory alignment for goods in Northern Ireland. But there is a dispute about customs. The EU wanted a backstop to avoid border checks. But the UK is asking the EU to accept a system that has not been properly tested, relying on exemptions and derogations and technology that has not been properly tested.
He says the EU needs the integrity of the single market and customs union, and proper checks. There must be credible controls, he says. The single market must be credible to consumers and companies.
Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, is speaking now.
He says the UK have a competent and professional negotiating team.
But he says the two sides are not in a position to reach an agreement.
Time is pressing, he says.
Juncker accuses UK government of engaging in a ‘blame game’
Juncker turns to Brexit.
He says it was the choice of the UK.
He says he is not ruling out a deal.
And he does not accept this blame game, “which started in London”.
He says he would like to repeat, for the sake of the British, that the European parliament would have to approve a Brexit deal, as well as the UK parliament.
Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European commission, is speaking now.
He starts with non-Brexit issues. He is currently talking about EU enlargement (the opposite of Brexit).