THE EU has given the UK a deadline of two weeks to provide ‘vital’ clarification on key sticking points such as the financial settlement estimated at more than €60 billion ahead of the European Council meeting in December (14th and 15th).
Following the sixth round of talks with UK’s Brexit Secretary David Davis in Brussels (November 9th and 10th), the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier made clear that unless London tables a new offer on the so-called ‘divorce bill’ by early December, there would not be enough time to prepare for debate at the end-of-year Summit. Failure to meet the deadline would see the decision to allow talks to advance to the second phase on future relations including trade arrangements delayed until next March.
At a joint press conference on November 10th, the Frenchman said that ‘some progress’ had been made on citizens’ rights, but more needed to be done before moving on to talks on the future relationship. The issue of the border on the island of Ireland has emerged as a serious challenge for the UK government, with An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar calling for a five-year transition and pushing for the North to say within the Customs Union and Internal Market after the UK leaves the bloc.
The former Regional Policy Commissioner and ex-Agriculture Minister called for ‘real and sincere progress’ to be made ahead of the crunch Summit in December. Following the departure of two UK Cabinet members – Michael Fallon (Defence) and Priti Patel (International Development) – Barnier would not be drawn on the internal political situation in the UK. “We are, of course, watching it very closely”, he stated.
In an interview in Le Journal du Dimanche, a French newspaper on November 12th, Barnier said European governments and businesses should ‘get prepared’ for a no-deal Brexit. He conceded that a hard exit was a ‘possibility’ that should not be ignored, causing disruption in ‘multiple domains’ from airlines flying in the Single European Sky to ‘cats and dogs crossing the Channel.’
On March 29th, 2019 the UK ‘will become a third-party country’: ‘Without a deal, our relationship would fall under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, like those we have with China,’ the Frenchman added. A no deal scenario would ‘be a step back in time of 44 years’ and this is something that nobody wants, he outlined.
It was with great regret that the Irish community in Brussels heard about the passing of our dear friend Gerard McCarthy from Toughbawn, Drinagh, who sadly passed away at the age of 53 on November 1st.
Jerry was a quick-witted, kind-hearted and generous West Cork man, who always had time for his wide circle of friends. He started work at the European Parliament in 1998 and knew the ins and outs of that institution better than anyone.
His private tours of the EP were legendary. I recall a group of Irish prison officers coming to see me in Brussels a few years ago – all above board don’t worry – and Jerry was more than happy to give them the ‘deluxe tour’ as he called it, manoeuvring around the labyrinth building with ease, peppered with anecdotes about MEPs and politicians past and present. An avid Southern Star reader, Jerry often spoke about home – trips out to Cape Clear for the Storytelling Festival, meeting old friends and neighbours in Kitty’s pub and spending time with his beloved mother Mary. The thoughts and prayers of the Irish community in Brussels are with all of the McCarthy family at this time.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.
• Rose O’Donovan is Editor-in-Chief of the Brussels based publication AGRA FACTS and has been following the evolution of European farm policy for over ten years.