BBC's Katya Adler says EU nations on brink of defying Barnier to break Brexit deadlock

Express 2 months ago

Brexit talks grounded to a halt after the European Union claimed the UK's latest proposals to change the withdrawal agreement do not help maintain a frictionless border on the island of Ireland. Boris Johnson last week outlined plans to have Northern Ireland stay in the single market after Brexit while leaving the customs union, effectively resulting in the need for some border checks. BBC Europe editor Katya Adler said the impasse London and Brussels are in will force EU member states to take on an "active" role in the negotiations instead of having chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier conduct the talks.

Speaking to the BBC's Today programme, Ms Adler said: "At the moment, member states are hanging back and allowing the European Commission to be their negotiators, as they appointed them to be.

"But I think we really are approaching here a time when this is political, this is a political decision that needs to be taken by the member states themselves.

"They need to get much more involved here."

She continued: "Even though the Prime Minister says customs comes down to technical issues, for the EU it’s about involving loyalty to Ireland, it’s about concern over the peace process in Northern Ireland and also, up in most of their minds, how flexible are they prepared to be with the single market on the island of Ireland.

Brexit news: Katya Adler claimed EU member states will soon intervene in the talks
Brexit news: Katya Adler said customs have become a "sticking point" on both sides

"That takes the member state to make an active decision if they want to avoid a no deal Brexit.

"We’re not there yet because they can smell an extension coming."

Boris Johnson attempted to stop MPs from securing new legislation that would force him to request a new extension before October 31 – the so-called Benn Act – but failed.

Should the Prime Minister fails to secure a deal with Brussels at the next EU Summit of October 31, he would technically have to ask for the withdrawal deadline to be moved yet again to January 2020. 

Brexit news: Boris Johnson put forward his proposals for an alternative to the backstop last week
Brexit news: Michel Barnier rejected offers for weekend talks from the UK

For a delay to be granted, all 27 EU member states have to agree unanimously but should any member of the EU Council vote against the others, they would effectively torpedo MPs’ attempts to prevent no deal.

A Government source told the Daily Telegraph Hungary has emerged as a potential ally in a vetoing strategy as controversial leader Viktor Orban was described as the “most sympathetic EU leader to our cause.”

Michael Gove met with Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto and Hungarian Ambassador Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky in the Cabinet Office last Friday.

Despite suggestions Budapest could provide Mr Johnson with the veto he needs to circumvent the Benn Act, Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage voiced his doubt at the viability of the plan.


Brexit news: EU leaders are to meet Boris Johnson in Brussels on October 17
Brexit news: MPs succeeded in creating a law aimed at preventing no deal

Mr Farage tweeted: “I doubt that Hungary will veto the UK’s extension and risk huge EU payments into their country each year.

“Nearly 3 percent of their economy is net EU spending.”

Downing Street warned the EU it would be a “historic misunderstanding” to believe the Benn Act could prevent a no deal Brexit despite MPs specifically designing the legislation to do so.

In a telephone call on Sunday, French President Emmanuel Macron is believed to have told the Prime Minister that the EU will decide at the end of this week whether a deal is possible.

An Elysee official told the BBC: “The President told Mr Johnson that the negotiations should continue swiftly with Michel Barnier’s team in the coming days, in order to evaluate at the end of the week whether a deal is possible that respects European Union principles.”

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