Tag Archives: Michel Barnier

EU stands behind Barnier

Brussels 15.10.2020 “…The European Council invites the Unionʼs chief negotiator (Michel Barnier) to continue negotiations in the coming weeks, and calls on the UK to make the necessary moves to make an agreement possible” the text of European Council conclusions on EU-UK relations reads.

The EU Council president Charles Michel expressed the leaders concern by lack of progress in the EU-UK talks.

The European Council reaffirmed the Union’s determination to have “as close as possible” a partnership with the United Kingdom on the basis of the negotiating directives of 25 February 2020, while respecting the previously agreed European Council guidelines, as well as statements and declarations, notably those of 25 November 2018, in particular as regards the level playing field, governance and fisheries, according to the Council conclusions.

EU-UK: ready for “all outcomes”

Brussels 15.10.2020 The EU leaders agreed to continue the “difficult” talks with the UK, shaping new trade agreement with the former member of the bloc, however they also have underlined that it is necessary to be ready to “all outcomes”, including no-deal scenario. Image above (archive).

“We will have the opportunity, also this afternoon, to tackle the future relationship with the UK. We want an agreement, but we also want to protect the level playing field. It’s a question of fairness, it’s a question of jobs, it’s also the question of the integrity of the single market. We are ready to continue to negotiate with the UK. This is a difficult negotiation, we all know that. And we will have the opportunity to have an exchange of views with all the European leaders” Charles Michel (pictured), the EU Council president said, while entering the meeting.

#EUCO: EU-UK future relations at stake

Brussels 13.10.2020 Today the EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier has informed the EU Ministers on the state of play of talks between the block and the UK, and the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement. He also confirmed the “strong EU unity” ahead of European Council on October 15-16. Barnier added that the EU will continue to work for a fair deal in the coming days and weeks.

Ahead of the Council European Council President Charles Michel has called the British government to put “all cards on the table” respecting to Brexit Withdrawal Agreement. “To get to a deal, we need significant steps by our British friends in the coming days”, he added.

“We have given a very strong signal to the British government: If the Finance Bill is introduced with that provision in it, many in the EU will see that as an indication that the British government simply doesn’t want a deal. It would be a second piece of legislation designed to deliberately break the Withdrawal Agreement text”.

With the 15 October European Council date approaching, the negotiations between the EU and the UK are becoming more intense to meet the deadline.

Michel Barnier next travelled to London to meet with UK Chief Negotiator David Frost, while informal talks continued this past week. European Council President Charles Michel and Prime Minister Johnson spoke by phone on 7 October to discuss the progress of the intensified negotiations ahead of the 15 October Summit.

Since UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s joint statement over the weekend, EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier travelled to Berlin on Monday to meet with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

The latter stressed the pandemic has made the negotiations with the UK even more difficult. Regardless of this hurdle, Maas added a no-deal Brexit would be “irresponsible”, saying the EU remains open to establishing a “close and ambitious partnership” with the UK. He warned, however, that progress is needed at this stage of the talks on state aid, the Irish border and dispute resolution.

Meanwhile, the UK Government announced its intention to push through a Finance Bill (not yet published) for approval by the end of the year could prove problematic for achieving a deal with the EU. The Bill is expected to include clauses which would allow the UK Government to make unilateral decisions about which goods were “at risk” of being traded on from Northern Ireland into the EU, and should therefore be subject to tariffs. The EU argues that this would be a further breach the Withdrawal Agreement and may therefore risk a no-deal exit scenario.

On October 7 in a separate procedure the Scottish Parliament voted to withhold consent on the UK’s Internal Market Bill. Both the Scottish and Welsh governments have stated the Bill overrides their powers of administration.

#EUCO: Mid-October Council agenda

EU leaders will meet in Brussels on 15-16 October to discuss the whole range of issues, including the epidemiological situation, relations with the United Kingdom, as well as climate change and relations with Africa, namely the post-Cotonou agreement.

COVID-19
The European Council will look at the current epidemiological situation. Leaders will also discuss overall coordination and the work on the development and distribution of a vaccine at the EU level.

EU-UK relations
The European Council will take stock of the implementation of the withdrawal agreement and review the state of the negotiations on the future EU-UK partnership. Leaders will discuss preparatory work for all scenarios after 1 January 2021. EU-UK negotiations on the future partnership.

Climate change
EU leaders will look at the progress made towards delivering the EU’s objective of climate neutrality by 2050. Following the adoption by the Commission of a 2030 Climate Target Plan, the EU leaders will hold an orientation debate on climate change-related issues.

The European Council will also discuss EU-Africa relations and may address other foreign policy issues, depending on developments, and the Cotonou agreement, which is the overarching framework for EU relations with African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries. It covers the EU’s relations with 79 countries, including 48 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Brexit: EU intensifies negotiations

The post-Brexit trade talks remained deadlocked on key areas, as London urged Brussels to give ground to avoid a damaging “no-deal” at the end of the year. They have pinpointed a European summit to October 15 as the latest agreement could be reached for it to be ratified in time for it take effect at the end of the year.

However the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier and his UK counterpart David Frost complained of a continued gulf between the two sides in crucial areas such as competition rules and fishing rights.

After the ninth round of talks in the difficult process broke up in Brussels, with renewed commitments to find a way out of the impasse, there was clear acknowledgement the deadline approaches.

“To reach an agreement, these divergences must necessarily be overcome over the next weeks,” said Barnier.

Despite indicating there were signs of agreement in a number of areas, Frost warned disagreements over competition rules and fishing may be “impossible” to overcome without the EU giving ground.

“I am concerned that there is very little time now to resolve these issues ahead of the European Council on October 15,” he said.

Next steps may be determined on October 3 in a video conference between European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen and Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Prime Minister Johnson said it was up to Brussels to agree to terms to unblock a deal.

“It’s all there, it’s just up to them,” he told the BBC, urging the EU to bow to common sense.

UK and EU officials have underlined the two leaders would take stock of progress made in the latest round of talks even as the European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen warned against a deal “at any price”.

“This is so difficult, but overall where there is a will there is a way. I think we should intensify the negotiations,” the EU top executive told press after meeting leaders of the 27-member bloc.

EU “firm” on respecting Brexit deal

Brussels 21.09.2020 According to an EU official the president of the EU Council Charles Michel met with top EU-UK negotiator Michel Barnier today to discuss a number of issues concerning the ongoing talks with the United Kingdom on the comprehensive trade agreement. The central focus has been the state of play of the negotiations, especially regarding the intention of the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to re-write the Withdrawal Agreement unilaterally.

PM Johnson defends his plan to unilaterally rewrite Britain’s Brexit deal with the European Union as an insurance policy against the bloc’s unreasonable behaviour — even as his former attorney general joined the ranks of once-loyal lawmakers refusing the contentious move.
Regarding the situation the EU official said that the position of the bloc remains “firm and steady” towards the need to fully implement the Withdrawal Agreement. The EU will not be “intimidated nor impressed”, but still the breaking of the international agreement remains “extremely worrying”.
Meanwhile Michel Barnier is also to preparing the briefing for the heads of states and governments of the EU member-states at special European Council on September 24-25, reporting on analysis of the situation.
At present the EU is looking for an agreement on our future relation, but that requires substantial progress on key issues as level playing field and fisheries, the EU official has underlined.

#SoTEU: Leyen WARNS UK

The UK has no legal power to unilaterally set aside the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement signed by Boris Johnson, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has warned in her State of Union #SOTEU speech on September 16. In the traditional annual address of the president of the European Commission to the European Parliament. The president said both sides had agreed it was the only way to guarantee the Northern Ireland peace process. In her speech she insisted that the trust would be undermined if the UK started reverse its international Treaty obligations.
Ursula von der Leyen addressed issue of the Withdrawal Agreement, which was concluded as a direct result of Brexit.

“We need new beginnings with old friends – on both of sides of the Atlantic and on both sides of the Channel. The scenes in this very room when we held hands and said goodbye with Auld Lang Syne spoke a thousand words. They showed an affection for the British people that will never fade. But with every day that passes the chances of a timely agreement do start to fade. Negotiations are always difficult. We are used to that.
And the Commission has the best and most experienced negotiator, Michel Barnier, to navigate us through.
But talks have not progressed as we would have wished. And that leaves us very little time.

As ever, this House will be the first to know and will have the last say. And I can assure you we will continue to update you throughout, just as we did with the Withdrawal Agreement.That agreement took three years to negotiate and we worked relentlessly on it. Line by line, word by word. And together we succeeded. The result guarantees our citizens’ rights, financial interests, the integrity of the Single Market – and crucially the Good Friday Agreement.

“The EU and the UK jointly agreed it was the best and only way for ensuring peace on the island of Ireland.
And we will never backtrack on that. This agreement has been ratified by this House and the House of Commons.
It cannot be unilaterally changed, disregarded or dis-applied. This a matter of law, trust and good faith.
And that is not just me saying it – I remind you of the words of Margaret Thatcher: “Britain does not break Treaties. It would be bad for Britain, bad for relations with the rest of the world, and bad for any future Treaty on trade”. This was true then, and it is true today.
Trust is the foundation of any strong partnership” von der Leyen said.

Boris Johnson has urged MPs to support a bill which modifies the Brexit deal he signed with the EU in January. While the British Prime Minister said the Internal Markets Bill would “ensure the integrity of the UK internal market” and hand power to Scotland and Wales, and it would protect the Northern Ireland peace process. Critics insist that the move will damage the UK’s international standing after a minister admitted the plans break international law.

EU-UK trade agreement on rocks

The EU officials have informed the UK goverment that the Primie Minister Boris Johnson has less than two weeks to save the agreement on post-Brexit trade and security, according to senior European Union sources. (Image above: archive).

The heads of the delegations Michel Barnier and David Frost will hold emergency talks next week in an effort to save the negotiations, according to The Times newspaper.

Mr Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, told the government last week that negotiations will not move forward until Mr Frost explains what Britain’s future policy will be on industrial subsidies, often mentioned as «level the playing field».

The Britsh negotiator responded to the EU top civil servant that the UK would not draw up such a key economic policy on a “timetable dictated to” by Brussels.

However the EU position towards key elements has not changed since January. «…Without a level playing field on environment, labour, taxation, and state aid, you cannot have the highest quality access to the world’s largest Single Market» the president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said while addressing London School of Economics with her speech on future of relations between the EU-UK relations.

Next to issues of trade the other questions of significance still remain unanswered, being locked as a part of this comprehensive agreement – the status of the EU citizens in the UK, the border controls, and the immigraiton.

EU-UK negociations to continue in August

Negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Union delegations will continue into October, the British government said, ending only days before a key meeting of EU leaders the bloc says is the deadline for the two sides to reach a comprehensive trade agreement.

The delegations will meet on the weeks of August 17, September 7 and September 28, the British government said in a statement, released on July 31.

The EU leaders are suggesting to reach a deal before the meeting to allow time for any trade accord to be implemented before the post-Brexit transition period expires by the end of the year on December 31.

A fifth round of talks between ended last week with both representatives were indicating they are still far from reaching an agreement. Without one, businesses face the imposition of tariffs and quotas following the WTO frame from January next year.

Barnier: EU willing ambitious UK partnership

“I am happy to meet you here in Europe House in London, at the end of this sixth negotiation round” the EU top negotiator of the EU-UK post-Brexit agreement said, while concluding latest round of talks in London.

“I would like to thank the EU Delegation, and our Ambassador João Vale de Almeida for welcoming us.

“Thank you also for the very useful work you do, representing the EU in the UK, together with the 27 EU Ambassadors, whom I met yesterday.

“This negotiation takes place in the middle of a very serious health, economic and social crisis across Europe and the world.

“This crisis gives us a duty to act responsibly and to work for an agreement limiting the negative consequences of Brexit. This is also why the agreement found this week in the European Council is so important. EU leaders, including Presidents Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel, showed responsibility and EU unity in agreeing on a budget for the next 7 years and on a very ambitious recovery plan. The European Parliament is debating this today.

…Let me begin with a few words on the context of this round. At the High-Level Meeting with Presidents Ursula von der Leyen, David Sassoli and Charles Michel in June, Prime Minister Boris Johnson told us that he wanted to reach a political agreement quickly. The Prime Minister also stated three red lines:

– no role for the European Court of Justice in the UK; – the right to determine future UK laws without constraints and an agreement on fisheries that shows that Brexit makes a real difference compared to the existing situation.
What Boris Johnson says and writes matters to the EU. Therefore, following the High-Level Meeting, we agreed to intensify our discussions. We have tried to understand how these three red lines can be squared with our commitment to a comprehensive new partnership – as set out in the Political Declaration, signed by Prime Minister Johnson on 17 October last year. Because of course, any international agreement implies constraints on both Parties.

We have continued to engage sincerely and constructively, in line with the mandate given to us by the Member States, with the support of the European Parliament.

However, over the past few weeks, the UK has not shown the same level of engagement and readiness to find solutions respecting the EU’s fundamental principles and interests.

This week, we have had useful discussions on some issues in goods and services.

But these negotiations are complex and require us to make progress across all areas. And we are still far away.

This week, discussions took place in a positive atmosphere, and I want to thank David Frost and his team, as well as the EU team, for their professional approach.

It has allowed us to make some progress:

We had useful discussions to narrow our divergences in the areas of social security coordination and Union programmes.
We made progress towards the objective of a comprehensive and single institutional framework, which must include robust enforcement mechanisms.
And we had good discussions on police and judicial cooperation, even if divergences remain.
On two important subjects, transport and energy, we had intense and useful discussions. However, the UK continued to request single market-like benefits.In addition, there is still no progress on two essential topics of our economic partnership.

First, there must be robust guarantees for a level playing field – including on State aid and standards – to ensure open and fair competition among our businesses, also over time. This is a core interest for all 27 Member States – and in my view also for the UK.
Second, we have to agree on a balanced, sustainable and long-term solution for fisheries, with the interests of all Member States concerned in mind, and not least the many men and women whose livelihoods depend on it on both sides.
These two points should not come as a surprise.

We have been saying the same thing since the beginning of the negotiations – not only this year, but consistently over the last three years. These points are mentioned explicitly in the Political Declaration – a rather precise text. They were part and parcel of our political engagement with Prime Minister Boris Johnson eight months ago.We are simply asking to translate this political engagement into a legal text. Nothing more.

Once again, what the Prime Minister writes and says matters to us. On the two points I mentioned – the level playing field and fisheries – this week again, the UK did not show a willingness to break the deadlock.

1/ On the level playing field, the UK still refuses to commit to maintaining high standards in a meaningful way.

On State aid, despite the clear wording of the Political Declaration, we have made no progress at all.

This is all the more worrying because we have no visibility on the UK’s intention on its future domestic subsidy control regime. We respect the UK political debate but the time for answers is quickly running out.

On important areas such as climate, environment, labour or social law, the UK refuses effective means to avoid undercutting by lowering standards.

The UK wants to regain its regulatory autonomy. We respect that.

But can the UK use this new regulatory autonomy to distort competition with us? We have to answer this question as we commit to a new economic partnership. We want to trade with the UK free from tariffs, free from quotas, but also free from unfair competition. And I am sure UK businesses want that too. The UK tells us it needs certainty for its businesses. But that cannot be at the price of long term uncertainty and disadvantage for our businesses in the EU.

We respect the UK government’s political choice and we are ready to work on solutions. But the EU cannot and will not accept to foot the bill for the UK’s political choices. And let me be very clear: A less ambitious agreement on goods and services will not lead the EU to drop its demands for a robust level playing field.

2/ On fisheries, the UK is effectively asking for a near total exclusion of EU fishing vessels from UK waters.

That is simply unacceptable.

The UK will be an independent coastal state, and the EU fully respects that. We also recognise that, under the future agreement, there may be change to the benefit of UK fishermen. But common stocks need to be managed jointly – according to international law and the principle of responsible and sustainable management of resources.

And any agreement cannot lead to the partial destruction of the EU fishing industry.I repeat: we have to agree on a balanced, sustainable and long-term solution for fisheries protecting the many men and women whose livelihoods depend on it.

The EU has always insisted that an economic partnership with the UK must include robust level playing field rules and an equitable agreement on fisheries.

This means that, by its current refusal to commit to conditions of open and fair competition and to a balanced agreement on fisheries, the UK makes a trade agreement at this point unlikely.

…Until the very last day of this negotiation and despite the current difficulties, the EU will remain engaged, constructive and respectful.

In any case, the UK has chosen to leave the Single Market and the Customs Union on 1 January 2021 – in little more than five months.

This will bring inevitable changes. On our side, we are getting ready.

We have published a Communication to help EU citizens, businesses and public administrations prepare for the end of the transition period.
EU leaders have agreed this week on a 5 billion euro special instrument – the “Brexit Adjustment Reserve” – to counter unforeseen and adverse consequences in Member States and sectors that are worst affected by Brexit.
In parallel, we have so far published over 70 sector specific notices: they explain in detail what actions must be taken in each sector to be ready for the end of the transition period. These notices are mandatory reading for stakeholders. They are available on our UK task force webpage.
But if we do not reach an agreement on our future partnership, there will be far more friction.

For instance, on trade in goods, in addition to new customs formalities, there will be tariffs and quotas.

This is the truth of Brexit. And I will continue to tell the truth.

If we want to avoid this additional friction, we must come to an agreement in October at the latest, so that our new treaty can enter into force on 1 January next year.

This means that we only have a few weeks left, and that we should not waste them.

Let me also remind you that we only have little time left to properly implement the Withdrawal Agreement.

Together with Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič, we continue to follow closely the implementation by the UK of its commitments under the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland.

In this context, EU leaders have also agreed on Monday to allocate 120 million euro to the PEACE PLUS programme in support of peace and reconciliation and of the continuation of North-South cross border cooperation.

The recent Specialised Committee on the Protocol was a useful occasion to take stock of progress. I would like to thank Michael Gove and his team for their engagement.

But we remain concerned that the necessary measures will not be in place on 1 January.

Let me remind you that there is no grace period for the proper implementation of this Protocol.

We also remain vigilant, together with the 27 EU governments and the European Parliament, to guarantee the rights of British nationals covered by the Withdrawal Agreement. In the same way, we expect the rights of EU citizens here in the UK to be safeguarded.

…Today in London, I want to reaffirm the EU’s willingness to reach an ambitious partnership agreement in all areas including, even later on, in external security and defense. This is also the wish of Presidents Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel, the European Parliament and the 27 Heads of State or government.

I continue to believe that Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the UK government want to find an agreement with the EU.

Because it is in our common interest to cooperate and to address the many and serious challenges of today: climate change and biodiversity, health and security, research and innovation, democracy and fundamental rights, the fight against poverty and financial stability.

If I may borrow a famous line from Saint-Exupéry, negotiation is not just to look or to speak at one another. It is to look together in the same direction.

I will be back in London with my team next week as planned.
A new round is foreseen mid-August.
Work continues. Our resolve remains unchanged”.

David Frost the Sherpa and EU adviser to Prime Minister made a separate statement.

« Older Entries