UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — Six weeks ahead of Brexit, European officials warned Wednesday of a “very real danger” of Britain leaving the European Union without a deal after Monday’s fruitless meeting and called on London to negotiate.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker warned at the European Parliament in Strasbourg that “the risk of not reaching an agreement remains very realistic. This may be the UK’s choice but it will never be the EU’s choice.”
In his six-minute speech, he was repeatedly boycotted by pro-Brexit European MPs, whom Juncker cynically called his “fans”.
But British chief negotiator Michel Barnier told them: “British citizens must hold you accountable … British citizens, like other Europeans, have the right to know the truth about the consequences of Brexit, all the more serious consequences … you don’t want to say it.”
Juncker said he still considered an agreement “still desirable and still possible.”
“I am not sure that we will succeed,” Juncker, who is due to hand over the chairmanship of the commission on November 1, to German Ursula von der Leyen. “But we are sure we have to try.”
More than three years after a referendum in which 52 percent of Britons chose to quit the European Union, a working lunch on Monday between Barnier and Prime Minister Boris Johnson did not allow a single step on the Brexit dilemma.
Johnson has publicly offered to leave the union without agreement, despite alarming estimates from his government, such as shortages of food and medicine and the risk of confusion in running some businesses.
“Certainly it is not about pretending that we are negotiating,” Barnier said on Wednesday, in veiled criticism of Boris Johnson, who is accused in his country of not being serious about negotiations.
“In these extraordinary and complex negotiations … it is our responsibility to continue this process with determination and sincerity,” Barnier told the European Parliament, stressing “the need for legally enforceable solutions” on the situation in Ireland, the only country sharing land borders with the United Kingdom.
– “Safety net” –
The Irish issue remains at the heart of the negotiations.
London is demanding the abolition of the “safety net” that has been included to prevent a return to a physical border between Northern Ireland and the British Republic of Ireland.
In this case, the Union is asking London for alternative “safety net” solutions that keep the UK in “unified customs territory” in the absence of other solutions.
“This is not enough to show us why they want to scrap the safety net,” Barnier said, explaining that behind these mechanisms are “very practical guarantees that all Irish citizens need” and “for the health and safety of consumers in the 27 countries.”
In the ensuing debate, the leader of the Brexit supporters accused European MP Nigel Farrag Michel Barnier of “seeking from the outset to put them (the British) inside” a single market.
Just before Barnier, the Northern European European MP from the Republican Sinn Fein party, which calls for a united Ireland, spoke with Martina Anderson holding her Irish passport wearing a green shirt named James McLean, the Northern Irish footballer who chose to represent the Irish Republic in international matches.
“We are the Northern Irish in Ireland, we have the right to European citizenship,” she said.
The United Kingdom hopes that sufficient progress will be made in the discussions to transform the European Summit on 17 October, a crucial stage for a new agreement.
No new agreement with London can enter into force without the approval of the European Parliament.
European lawmakers are due to vote on Wednesday afternoon on a Brexit resolution that will be the first for a new parliament that emerged from the May elections.
The text agreed upon by the major political blocs except the national right, is consistent with the positions of the previous parliament, which requires to make all possible efforts to avoid the exit of Britain without an agreement and reaffirm that the agreement negotiated “just and balanced.”
The text also states that no new postponement will be supported “unless there are valid reasons and objective”.
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