With the countdown on for Brexit, the EU and the UK look no closer to a deal. UK Prime Minister Theresa May has ruled out a second referendum and has urged the EU to “evolve its position” on Britain’s exit from the bloc.
European leaders gathered in the Austrian city of Salzburg on Thursday for the second day of an informal summit. One of the main issues are the deadlocked negotiations on Brexit, the final agreement on which is supposed to be laid out in October. Immigration, a major policy point for Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, whose government holds the rotating EU presidency, and security in the bloc are the other major talking points.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May told EU leaders on Wednesday that Britain has “put forward serious and workable proposals” and that it was now up to the EU to “respond in kind” and “evolve its position.”
What the key players said on the first day of the summit:
Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl told DW that the EU member states disagreed on many things, there was “no friction when it comes to Brexit. There is a high degree of cohesion.”
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar: “I don’t think we’re any closer to a withdrawal agreement than we were in March, so I can’t report any progress, unfortunately.”
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker: A deal with Britain is still “far away.”
EU Council President Donald Tusk: Despite progress in some areas, on the two thorniest issues of the Irish border and post-Brexit trade ties, “the UK’s proposals will need to be reworked.”
Brexit as it stands
A major summit planned in Brussels for October 18 is being treated as the last chance for a concrete deal for Brexit, which is supposed to go into effect on April 1. While the parties could theoretically ink a deal later than October (there’s already talk of an extra November meeting) it will take time to be ratified both by the EU legislature, all member state parliaments, and the UK parliament.
May, however, has put paid to hints within her own government on a possible second referendum on Brexit, telling EU leaders that it is not an option.
The two main sticking points that remain unsolved are:how to regulate the border between Northern Ireland , which is part of the UK, and the Republic of Ireland, which is an independent EU member, as well as Britain’s future trade negotiations with the EU. May told EU leaders that she won’t accept an EU proposal for Northern Ireland to remain in the customs union while future trade ties are being negotiated.
Migration to the EU
EU leaders are also under pressure to come up with a compromise on immigration, after a joint summit in June produced a deal scant on details.
While most countries agree on strengthening the border control agency Frontex , they still disagree on suggestions to redistribute refugees proportionally throughout the bloc. Countries like Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary do not look likely to change their hard-line stance against this plan.
There are also disagreements across the bloc about which North African countries can be relied upon to set up schemes to stop migrants attempting the dangerous sea crossing to Europe, although many have praised Egypt for its efforts thus far.
European Council President Donald Tusk accused member states of playing “the migration blame game” and urged them to create a bloc-wide solution to the issue.
ng,es/sms (AFP, dpa)