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Westlake Legal Group > Brussels (Belgium)

U.K. and E.U. Agree on Brexit Draft Deal, but Hurdles Remain

Westlake Legal Group 17brexit-sub-facebookJumbo U.K. and E.U. Agree on Brexit Draft Deal, but Hurdles Remain Politics and Government Northern Ireland Johnson, Boris Great Britain Withdrawal from EU (Brexit) Great Britain European Union Democratic Unionist Party (Northern Ireland) Brussels (Belgium)

BRUSSELS — Britain and the European Union agreed on the draft text of a Brexit deal on Thursday, an 11th-hour breakthrough in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s effort to settle his country’s anguished, yearslong debate over Brexit and pave the way for its departure from the bloc.

The deal, details of which were published shortly after the announcement, must still clear several hurdles, including approval from Europe’s leaders and, most crucially, passage in the British Parliament. Mr. Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, had also struck a deal with Brussels but suffered three thunderous defeats in Parliament.

Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, seen as vital to the passage of the agreement in Parliament, said it did not support the agreement. And the opposition Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, called on members of Parliament to reject it, saying, “It seems the prime minister has negotiated an even worse deal than Theresa May’s.”

Mr. Johnson announced the agreement on Twitter, saying that the parties had reached a “great new deal that takes back control” and that Parliament would now be clear to vote on the agreement on Saturday.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission’s president, confirmed that a deal had been struck and noted that a revised arrangement on Northern Ireland had been reached.

He wrote on Twitter: “Where there is a will, there is a #deal — we have one! It’s a fair and balanced agreement for the EU and the UK.”

Britain’s frantic efforts to negotiate a Brexit agreement with the European Union had appeared to hit a last-minute snag after the D.U.P. said in a statement on Thursday morning that it could not support the deal “as things stand.

The statement, hours before Mr. Johnson was to present the deal to European leaders at a summit meeting in Brussels, suggested that domestic politics once again threatened to torpedo the complex negotiations.

It was unclear whether the deal had been altered before the agreement with European leaders was reached. It was also unclear whether the Northern Irish party simply wanted to make a show of holding out for its position before ultimately acquiescing — or whether Mr. Johnson faced a serious rebellion from the skeptics in his ranks.

Mr. Johnson may have an advantage over his predecessor in securing parliamentary approval for the deal, because he has assiduously cultivated the most skeptical elements of his party.

For days, Mr. Johnson had worked frantically to bridge a gap over the thorny question of how to treat Northern Ireland in a post-Brexit Europe — a fiendishly complex issue that helped torpedo Mrs. May’s agreement and could still fracture Mr. Johnson’s Conservative-led coalition in Parliament.

People briefed on the talks said Mr. Johnson had given significant ground on the structure of a customs unions that would allow Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, to continue to trade seamlessly with Ireland and other members of the European Union.

It was a dramatic culmination to down-to-the-wire talks that began on Tuesday morning, with some European officials predicting that the two sides would not be able to close the gap on customs issues in time to finalize a draft deal before the critical summit meeting of European leaders on Thursday and Friday.

The value of the British pound soared on the news of a deal to a five-month high, trading at $1.29 to the dollar. The rise reversed a slump earlier in the day, when the Democratic Unionist Party signaled that it would not back Mr. Johnson’s draft deal.

The Democratic Unionists, who have proved to be a pivotal blocking force in previous attempts to negotiate a Brexit agreement, said they were troubled by elements of the deal on how to handle Northern Ireland in a post-Brexit world.

“As things stand, we could not support what is being suggested on a customs and consent issues, and there is a lack of clarity on VAT,” the party said in a statement issued earlier on Thursday, referring to the value-added tax.

The party said it would continue working with the government on an acceptable agreement.

Mr. Johnson has consulted closely the Democratic Unionists and other skeptical elements of his Conservative Party-led coalition as a deal has taken shape. On Wednesday, optimism had grown amid signs in Brussels that the deadlock over Britain’s planned departure from the bloc could be on the verge of breaking.

Brussels has pushed Mr. Johnson so far that it “makes sense they are unhappy,” Mujtaba Rahman, an analyst with the Eurasia Group, a political risk consultancy, said of the Democratic Unionists. But he said it was unclear how serious the setback was, because “the D.U.P. does have to be seen fighting.”

The intervention from the Democratic Unionists underscored the problems that Mr. Johnson faces in trying to get any deal through Parliament, where he does not have a majority. Without the support of the D.U.P., Mr. Johnson has little hope of getting any agreement ratified by Parliament.

It is also a reminder that he faces many of the problems confronted by Mrs. May. In December 2017, the Democratic Unionists derailed her efforts to reach a deal to allow her to proceed to another phase in the Brexit negotiations.

That happened while she was holding a working lunch with Mr. Juncker. She was forced to pause discussions with the European Commission president, and keep diplomats waiting, to take a call from Arlene Foster, the Democratic Unionist Party’s leader.

Mrs. May then returned with a revised plan several days later, at which point Ms. Foster said that the new version ensured that there would be no border between Britain and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom.

Essentially, Mr. Johnson’s proposed agreement would leave Northern Ireland aligned with European Union laws and regulations on most trade issues, even as it moved out of the European single market and into a customs union with Britain.

Under the proposed terms, there would be customs checks on goods flowing from Britain to Northern Ireland to ensure that they meet the rules if those goods were ultimately destined for the European Union.

There would be a complex series of rules on tariffs and value-added tax payments to compensate for differences in tariff rates between the European and British customs unions, though negotiators had struggled on Tuesday to resolve the issue of how to rebate value-added tax payments.

The arrangement would also be subject to consent by the Northern Ireland Assembly, but in a way that would prevent the Democratic Unionists, who have opposed previous such proposals, from simply vetoing it at the first possible opportunity.

The Democratic Unionists are crucial to Mr. Johnson’s effort to win a majority for the deal in Parliament. Their opposition to similar previous versions of a Brexit agreement forced Mrs. May to overhaul that agreement to place all of Britain in the European customs union for a period of time.

Mrs. May’s deal was, nevertheless, soundly defeated in Parliament three times.

Mr. Johnson was seen as having a better chance of cobbling together a majority, in part because he was a vocal supporter of Brexit before the 2016 referendum and thus has greater credibility with euroskeptic elements of the Conservative coalition.

The Democratic Unionist Party campaigned for Brexit in the 2016 referendum campaign, and Mr. Johnson has presented his plan as the last chance to deliver on that mandate from voters. In Northern Ireland as a whole, however, 56 percent of voters in the referendum favored remaining in the European Union.

Yet, for the party, which is strongly committed to maintaining Northern Ireland’s status as a part of the United Kingdom, the issues being negotiated by Mr. Johnson are existential. That is because if they bind Northern Ireland much more closely to Ireland, its southern neighbor, some fear that it would inevitably lead to a united Ireland.

If the Democratic Unionists have collectively decided that the proposals are unacceptable, they will have to change to secure support.

Mr. Johnson has vowed to withdraw Britain from the European Union, with or without a deal, by Oct. 31, and his negotiators have labored to seal an agreement by this week so that he is not forced to ask Brussels for an extension, as would be required under a measure that Parliament passed last month.

Anna Schaverien contributed reporting from London.

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Brexit’s ‘Doomsday Politics’ Mean Voters May Be Last Chance to Resolve Crisis

LONDON — He jabbed his finger in the air and shook his head theatrically. He dared the opposition to back his call for an election and sneered that the Labour Party’s leader was a “chlorinated chicken.”

By the time Prime Minister Boris Johnson finished taking questions in Parliament on Wednesday, he had ushered in a new season of political mayhem in Britain, one in which the voters are now as likely as their feuding leaders to resolve the questions over how and when Britain should leave the European Union.

The raucous spectacle in the House of Commons illustrated the obstacles Mr. Johnson will face as he tries to lead Britain out of the European Union next month. On Wednesday, Parliament handed the prime minister two stinging defeats.

It first blocked his plans to leave the union with or without an agreement. And it then stymied his bid, at least for the moment, to call an election for Oct. 15, out of fear he could secure a new majority in favor of breaking with Europe, deal or no deal.

The frenzied maneuvering showed how Brexit keeps propelling the country ever deeper into uncharted political territory, where centuries of unwritten rules and conventions are giving way to a brawl over the future of the world’s oldest democracy.

The upheaval in Parliament on Wednesday was the latest and perhaps the ultimate test of a political system that has been under unrelenting strain since the British voted narrowly to leave the European Union in June 2016.

Britain has since unwittingly become a laboratory for how a deeply rooted parliamentary democracy can be shaken to its core by populism, especially when wrapped in the democratic legitimacy of a public referendum.

Parliament has become a theater, beamed live around the world, in which democracy’s messy, self-interested and self-destructive tendencies are laid bare in real time.

Despite the vote by lawmakers defying the prime minister’s call to go to the polls, Britain still appears headed for a general election in the coming weeks or months, with the opposition likely to agree to a vote once a law forbidding a no-deal Brexit is firmly in place.

An election could clarify a debate that has become hopelessly muddled. A clear victory would give Mr. Johnson’s Conservative government a mandate to withdraw, regardless of whether it strikes an agreement with officials in Brussels. A defeat would eject him from office and in all likelihood delay and reshape the terms of Britain’s exit.

Yet an inconclusive result — equally plausible, given the splintered nature of British politics — could leave the nation even more paralyzed than it is now. Having exhausted one of the last political mechanisms left, an indecisive vote could deepen divisions and reinforce fears that Brexit is a problem that defies a democratic solution.

In many ways, Britain appears set on a course not unlike that in the United States, where President Trump, an ally of Mr. Johnson’s, has galvanized his political base by vilifying his opponents. Like Mr. Trump, Brexit has not just dominated the nation’s political debate but changed the very nature of its politics.

“You have a complete fracturing of the British political system, and a British government that has ground to a halt,” said Frank Luntz, a Republican pollster who advised the Conservative Party in past elections and knew Mr. Johnson as a student at Oxford.

“Everyone is seeking to be as dogmatic and punitive as they can,” he said. “This is doomsday politics at its worst.”

If Mr. Johnson can ultimately get Parliament to agree to an election, he hopes to mobilize those who voted to leave by tarring his opponents as lackeys of Europe. He is ruthlessly purging the ranks of the Conservative Party to make it more radically pro-Brexit and fend off threats from a new Brexit Party.

Mr. Johnson got an endorsement from Mr. Trump. “He’s in there fighting,” the president said. “Boris knows how to win.”

The parallels between Mr. Johnson’s campaign and Mr. Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party are obvious, but there are important differences as well. Lawmakers in Britain have pushed back vigorously on Mr. Johnson’s tactics, with even members of the prime minister’s party rebelling against his drive for a swift exit.

The proposed timing of a vote, before the Oct. 31 deadline to leave the European Union, has stoked suspicions that Mr. Johnson is acting in his own interests rather than the nation’s. Rather than embracing the call for an election, the Labour Party insisted that Parliament first prohibit Mr. Johndon from pursuing a no-deal Brexit before it would agree.

On Wednesday, Parliament moved closer to achieving that. By a vote of 327 to 299, lawmakers advanced a bill that would tie Mr. Johnson’s hands on Brexit, barring any departure without a deal. The bill now goes to the House of Lords, which must give its assent.

Until it’s the law of the land, Parliament is determined to resist Mr. Johnson’s push for a new election. And late Wednesday night, Mr. Johnson failed to win in another vote the two-thirds majority he needed to call an election.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_160179450_531cd632-b5b3-4ca6-8ccb-d0fa6203013a-articleLarge Brexit’s ‘Doomsday Politics’ Mean Voters May Be Last Chance to Resolve Crisis Trump, Donald J London (England) Liberal Democrats (Great Britain) Labour Party (Great Britain) Johnson, Boris Great Britain Withdrawal from EU (Brexit) European Union Corbyn, Jeremy (1949- ) Conservative Party (Great Britain) Brussels (Belgium) Brexit Party (Great Britain)

Leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn in the House of Commons on Wednesday. Mr. Corbyn complained that Mr. Johnson refused to answer questions about the economic costs of a no-deal Brexit.CreditJessica Taylor/UK Parliament

“Under normal circumstances, no opposition party would ever get in the way of a governing party calling it quits,” said Baroness Rosalind Scott, a member of the House of Lords and a former president of the Liberal Democrats. “But all the normal rules are gone, which makes it difficult to predict the outcome.”

As Parliament went back into session this week, the signs of Britain’s political dislocation were everywhere.

Mr. Johnson took questions while behind him sat members of the Conservative Party, some of whom he had expelled a day earlier for voting against his call to withdraw, with or without a deal. Among those were party elders Kenneth Clarke, who has served in Parliament since 1970 and is known as the Father of the House, and Nick Soames, a grandson of Mr. Johnson’s hero, Winston Churchill.

Some Conservatives rose to Mr. Johnson’s defense, but others scolded him for trying to cut off debate on Brexit by curtailing the number of days Parliament could legislate before the deadline. Those tactics prompted an outburst from an opposition figure.

“Are you a dictator or a democrat?” Ian Blackford, a Scottish leader in Parliament, bellowed at Mr. Johnson.

“I am a democrat,” Mr. Johnson replied, “because I not only want to respect the will of the people in the referendum but want to have an election.”

Prime Minister’s Questions, a weekly ritual dating back to 1961, is often marked by grandstanding, catcalls and rowdy interruptions. But Wednesday’s session seemed especially unruly, less an effort to extract information from the government’s leader than an opportunity for Mr. Johnson and the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, to position themselves for the coming campaign.

After challenging Mr. Corbyn to a vote, Mr. Johnson pointed across the well of the House and declared, “There’s only one chlorinated chicken that I can see in this house, and he’s on that bench.”

Mr. Corbyn has warned often that Brexiteers will force Britain into a one-sided trade deal with the United States, in which the British will be forced to import chemically treated meat and poultry.

Labour’s legislation to prevent him from withdrawing without a deal, Mr. Johnson said, amounted to a “surrender bill” to Europe. He branded it a strategy of “dither and delay,” repeating the phrase like it was a poll-tested message for a campaign.

For his part, Mr. Corbyn complained that Mr. Johnson refused to answer questions about the economic costs of a no-deal Brexit. The government, he said, declined to release an internal study, known as Operation Yellowhammer, which he said presented a dire picture of food and medical shortages.

“He’s desperate, absolutely desperate, to avoid scrutiny,” Mr. Corbyn declared. “If the prime minister does to the country what he did to his party over the last 24 hours, a lot of people have a great deal to fear.”

That line drew blood: Mr. Johnson’s purge the previous day has left the Conservative Party in a state of near-civil war. The prime minister watched on Tuesday as one of his members crossed the House floor and sat with the Liberal Democrats, officially erasing his government’s one-seat majority. The subsequent expulsions left the government 21 seats short of a majority.

For Mr. Johnson, a disheveled figure known more for his mop of blonde hair than for his legislative skills, an election would be a chance to take his case out of the gilded halls of Westminster and directly to the British public. It is a debate he won in 2016, when he led the pro-Brexit referendum campaign, and he won the party leadership this summer partly because members believed he was the best candidate to lead them into a general election.

Mr. Johnson is gambling that the Conservatives, riding slightly higher in the polls, can win a solid majority over Labour, which is mired in its own Brexit divisions and saddled with a leader, Mr. Corbyn, whose leftist views put off middle-of-the-road voters. A strong victory, he said, would allow him to go into negotiations with European officials with a stronger hand than his predecessor, Theresa May.

In the three years since the referendum, however, people here have heard harrowing accounts of what could happen if Britain leaves Europe without a deal: shortages of food and medicine; trucks lined up for miles at newly installed border posts on each side of the English Channel; chaos at airports and train stations; and violence in Ireland after a hard border once again bisects the island.

That explains Mr. Johnson’s eagerness to hold the vote in mid-October, just weeks before the Oct. 31 deadline to leave the European Union, rather than afterward, when the costs of a disorderly Brexit could become clearer to voters.

“What he doesn’t want is an election down the road when we’re all eating barbecued rat,” said Baroness Scott.

There is no indication, however, that even a resounding election victory for Mr. Johnson would make Europe any more amenable to a new deal.

Officials in Brussels said they have no plans to bend on the demands they made of Mrs. May, specifically on the Northern Ireland border, which Mr. Johnson has said he would not accept. Europeans have watched the spectacle in London with a mixture of bemusement, distaste and concern.

“Observing how the prime minister behaves, both to Parliament and opponents in his own party, is certainly not an exercise in trust building,” said Norbert Röttgen, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the German Parliament. “We prefer to stay out of this jungle.”

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Europe Built a System to Fight Russian Meddling. It’s Struggling.

BRUSSELS — The European Union launched an ambitious effort earlier this year to combat election interference: an early-warning system that would sound alarms about Russian propaganda. Despite high expectations, however, records show that the system has become a repository for a mishmash of information, produced no alerts and is already at risk of becoming defunct.

Indeed, even before the European Parliament elections this spring, an inside joke was circulating in Brussels about the Rapid Alert System: It’s not rapid. There are no alerts. And there’s no system.

Europe’s early struggles offer lessons for other nations, including the United States, where intelligence officials expect Russia to try to interfere in next year’s presidential election. In many ways, the European Union has been more aggressive than Washington in demanding changes from social media companies and seeking novel ways to fight disinformation.

But doing so has pushed the bloc into thorny areas where free speech, propaganda and national politics intersect. Efforts to identify and counter disinformation have proven not only deeply complicated, but also politically charged.

The new Rapid Alert System — a highly touted network to notify governments about Russian efforts before they metastasized as they did during the 2016 American elections — is just the latest example.

Working out of a sixth-floor office suite in downtown Brussels this spring, for example, European analysts spotted suspicious Twitter accounts pushing disinformation about an Austrian political scandal. Just days before the European elections, the tweets showed the unmistakable signs of Russian political meddling.

So European officials prepared to blast a warning on the alert system. But they never did, as they debated whether it was serious enough to justify sounding an alarm. In fact, even though they now speak of spotting “continued and sustained disinformation activity from Russian sources,” they never issued any alerts at all.

The European Union has portrayed its efforts to combat Russian disinformation as a high-profile success, with officials declaring that they helped protect the elections and deter Russian propaganda. But interviews with more than a dozen current and former European officials, as well as a review of internal documents, reveal a process hamstrung by disagreements like the one that killed the Austrian alert.

Most countries did not even contribute, records show, and the network became a jumble of unanalyzed information, some of it potentially useful, some not.

Now, even officials who believe deeply in the effort say the bloc’s claim to have deterred Russian attacks is significantly overstated. Without changes, they warn, the alert system could quickly become obsolete.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_157126953_4a42e715-6801-4816-92b2-022c3e7cef85-articleLarge Europe Built a System to Fight Russian Meddling. It’s Struggling. Trump, Donald J Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Rumors and Misinformation Propaganda Freedom of Speech and Expression European Union Europe Czech Republic Brussels (Belgium)

President Trump with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in Japan last month. Mr. Trump has downplayed the significance of Russian interference in elections.CreditErin Schaff/The New York Times

“Reality is very different,” said Jakub Kalensky, the European Union’s former top disinformation analyst. He said internal politics and a resistance among some European leaders have left the system too sluggish to respond to the Russian threat.

“It’s a Potemkin village,” said Jakub Janda, who writes on Russian disinformation as the executive director of European Values, a Czech-based policy organization. “People in the know, they don’t take it seriously.”

Senior European officials in charge of the counter-disinformation effort strongly reject that notion and say the bloc is forging into new territory. They said the new alert system had already become an important clearinghouse for experts and officials across the bloc.

They point out that their commitment to the issue began in 2015, with the creation of a task force of analysts who scour the internet and who have publicly debunked Russian disinformation. The alert system — a private computer network in which any country can contribute intelligence or blast alerts — was created early in 2019 as an attempt to build on that effort.

“To be very clear, there is no similar operation going on anywhere in the world,” said Johannes Bahrke, a spokesman for the European Commission.

Mr. Bahrke said officials stand by the analysis in the Austrian case. Lutz Güllner, one of the top European officials overseeing the counter-disinformation campaign, said the absence of an alert had been a reflection of his team’s caution. “We agreed we need to be careful,” he said. With each new piece of propaganda, he added, analysts ask “What do we do with this? How do we define it?”

Russia’s use of European websites and social media accounts, and the rise of far-right political parties, whose messages often converge with Russia’s, have only complicated such calculations. Suspected Russian operatives, for example, have used ostensibly Irish Facebook accounts to try to inflame tensions in Northern Ireland, researchers recently found. And far-right copycats in Italy have aligned themselves with Kremlin talking points.

Yet those campaigns are effectively off-limits to European analysts. They are prohibited from calling out or debunking propaganda produced by European websites or media, a limitation that is intended to guard against creeping infringements on free speech. Instead, they are restricted to tracking official Russian media sources and issuing regular reports debunking claims about Europe.

“They don’t even have the ability to highlight far-right propaganda,” said Mr. Kalensky, who now studies disinformation for the Atlantic Council.

Even the reports reflect internal political pressures.

When editing one recent report on pre-election propaganda, for example, officials stripped out all references to Russia’s support for European political groups on the far right and left, according to three officials familiar with the process. Those references were replaced with a general warning about “malicious sources, both within and outside” the European Union.

European officials say those edits reflect the unique politics of the European Union, a 28-country bloc in which Portuguese Socialists, French centrists and Hungarian right-wingers have equal voice. It is one thing for analysts to call out Russian stories about Ukraine as disinformation. When those exact claims are repeated by the Hungarian government, however, things get complicated.

Josep Borrell, Spain’s foreign minister, has been nominated to become the European Union’s top diplomat.CreditBrendan Smialowski/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The United States faces some of the same challenges. American officials have filed criminal charges and sanctions against Russian propagandists and government officials. But creating a European-style program to identify and debunk propaganda would bump up against the constitutional right to free speech — and also bump into President Trump, who promotes conspiracy theories himself and who has downplayed the significance of the Russian election attack.

Similar disputes are common in Europe. Former members of the Eastern bloc like the Czech Republic and Lithuania, backed by allies in the United Kingdom, have argued for a firm posture against Russia, while France and Germany have favored closer relationships and diplomacy. One reflection of this divide: The disinformation task force was created specifically to address Russian disinformation, yet it omitted any reference to Russia in its written objectives.

“Europe has a nice way of trying to believe, or say, that in the dialogue you will reach agreement,” said Jovita Neliupsiene, Lithuania’s ambassador to the European Union. “Naming and shaming is not a very European way of doing things.”

Ms. Neliupsiene said she was heartened by recent progress. The European Union has explicitly called for continued vigilance against the Russian threat. The task force, which was unfunded for years, now has money and a staff.

But some of the biggest supporters of the effort are also its biggest critics. They say Brussels is deliberately masking problems. Last month’s report on the elections, for instance, gave the union credit for deterring Russian propaganda. Yet the same report also says instances of Russian disinformation doubled this year.

“This is the E.U. advertising — that it’s doing great on this issue, when it’s really not,” Mr. Janda said.

European officials privately acknowledge that they have no evidence that their efforts specifically deterred Russian propaganda. But they say that calling out disinformation is unquestionably good for democracy.

Senior officials add that they have received good feedback on the system and say they are constantly working to improve it.

The immediate benefit of the Rapid Alert System is not actually the alerts, said Mr. Güllner, the senior counter-disinformation official. “The real benefit is to link up all the 28 member states on a common platform,” he said. The website allows officials to share information and spot trends, he said.

In practice that effort has been spotty. Only a third of European nations actually contributed to it before the elections, according to an internal report from the Czech government. Those who did contribute often simply uploaded news clippings or reports from nongovernmental organizations. No standards exist and nobody is in charge of analyzing the information to spot trends, the report said.

“The R.A.S. is at risk of becoming defunct,” the Czech report read. The report called for defined standards on what information to share and a clear plan for analyzing those materials. “If we want more than to spend resources on maintaining a platform to occasionally share studies by N.G.O.s or invitations to conferences,” it added, “we need to rethink our strategy.”

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E.U. Extends Brexit Deadline to Oct. 31, Avoiding Cliff Edge (for Now)

BRUSSELS — With less than 48 hours before Britain’s scheduled departure, the European Union extended the exit deadline early Thursday until the end of October, avoiding a devastating cliff-edge divorce but settling none of the issues that have plunged British politics into chaos, dysfunction and recrimination.

On another difficult night for Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain, European leaders scrapped her proposal for a postponement until June 30, concluding that such a short deadline was unrealistic for the departure known as Brexit. They agreed, however, to review the arrangement at the end of June to prevent British disruption to the bloc while the nation remains in Europe’s departure lounge.

Although the intense pressure of recent weeks may abate for now, the path ahead still resembles a minefield, dotted with explosive issues like a possible attempt to topple Mrs. May, a general election or a second Brexit referendum — or some combination of the three. Most immediately, Mrs. May is likely to face calls to step down, and potential successors are already trying to raise money and advertise their credentials.

At a news conference, Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, said that the two sides had agreed to what he called “a flexible extension” until Oct. 31, adding that this provided an “additional six months for the U.K. to find the best possible solution.” In essence, the bloc agreed to kick the Brexit can down the road for another six months.

Mr. Tusk said that the Oct. 31 date was “a bit shorter than I expected,” but said that the extension should be enough to complete Brexit if London showed “good will.” He told the British: “Please do not waste this time.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_153325701_2a96dc12-bb49-44de-9bda-448f83b45ea3-articleLarge E.U. Extends Brexit Deadline to Oct. 31, Avoiding Cliff Edge (for Now) May, Theresa M Juncker, Jean-Claude Great Britain Withdrawal from EU (Brexit) European Union Donald Tusk Brussels (Belgium)

From left, European Council President Donald Tusk, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel of Luxembourg, Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany at the start of a special summit meeting on Brexit at the European Council in Brussels on Wednesday.CreditOlivier Hoslet/EPA, via Shutterstock

But he did not rule out another extension. The June review, he said, was not for negotiation, but only to inform member states about the state of play in Britain.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker dismissed worries that Britain would interfere in the work of the bloc, saying that Britain’s being “a difficult partner” was “nothing new.”

Mrs. May said she knew that there was “huge frustration” at home that she had needed to request the extension. She appealed to lawmakers to support a Brexit agreement, adding that “the choices we now face are stark and the timetable is clear.”

But she can expect fierce criticism later on Thursday from her own lawmakers, many of whom opposed delaying Brexit to June, let alone October. Reminded of statements that she would not contemplate remaining in the bloc beyond June, Mrs. May said that the agreement allowed Britain to leave by then if Parliament approved a deal.

The extension means that Britain will almost certainly have to hold elections for the European Parliament on May 23, something Mrs. May once argued would be absurd, almost three years after Britons voted for withdrawal. That prospect seems certain to anger hard-line Brexit supporters.

European leaders stressed that Britain’s Parliament would still have to pass the withdrawal agreement before there could be any discussions about the future relationship, even if the country left without an agreement first.CreditDan Kitwood/Getty Images

President Emmanuel Macron of France called the October date “the best compromise” to maintain European unity. It’s now “up to Britons to be clear with themselves and their people,” he said, about whether they want to participate in the European Parliament elections next month even though they would have to abandon the legislature a few months later.

This was not the first time Mrs. May had requested a postponement. Originally, she had promised Britons that she would strike a deal by March 29, only to acknowledge last month that the goal was impossible. Having missed that deadline, Mrs. May was a supplicant to the 27 other leaders of the bloc, who made their latest decision after she had left the room.

Having lost control of the process in Brussels, Mrs. May will return to a pitched battle with pro-Brexit Conservative lawmakers, including a significant number who now want her out and seem willing to risk an economically damaging departure without an agreement.

Some have been arguing that Britain should use an extension to sabotage European Union business from the inside. While Mrs. May has promised not to do so, her position is so shaky that thoughts are turning to how a successor might behave, particularly a pro-Brexit hard-liner like Boris Johnson, the former foreign secretary.

At the same time, if Britain’s Parliament should finally pass the withdrawal agreement negotiated with the bloc, then Brexit would take place on the first of the next month.

The president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, center left, and the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, have suggested a lengthy extension to the Brexit deadline.CreditEmmanuel Dunand/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

European nations had been divided between those who wanted a shorter extension, to keep up pressure on Britain to resolve Brexit, and those who wanted to give it the time and space to reach a sensible conclusion.

On Wednesday it was Mr. Macron who took the toughest line, arguing that Britain needed to propose a credible plan to resolve the crisis.

On his insistence, plans to give Britain as much as another year were scrapped in favor of a shorter delay. He had argued that a long extension risked disrupting the bloc’s more important work and that Britain’s political confusion could prove contagious.

But there was never any question of slamming the door instantly on Britain and triggering a disruptive “no-deal” Brexit that would have occurred Friday night in the absence of an extension. And Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany stressed the need for Britain to have time to manage an orderly process, which would allow for a good relationship between the two sides after the divorce.

The October deadline was therefore a compromise, chosen in part because it would keep Britain outside the new European Commission, which will be formed in the fall.

Trucks queued last month on the main road into the Port of Dover, southern England, because of a work slowdown by French customs officers. The bottleneck illustrated the possible effect of a no-deal Brexit on traffic across the English Channel.CreditGareth Fuller/Press Association, via Associated Press

So far, the British Parliament has shown little indication that it will ever approve the withdrawal deal that Mrs. May negotiated with the European Union. That is a legally binding treaty that would resolve technical issues, like the government’s outstanding financial commitments to the bloc, and keep Britain inside its economic structures until at least December 2020.

After that point, Mrs. May wants to detach Britain from Europe’s customs union and single market, and to take control of immigration from the Continent.

That formula has been rejected three times in Parliament and, despite attempts to broker an accord with the opposition Labour Party, prospects for its passage still look low.

More talks between the parties were scheduled for Thursday, but Labour has complained that Mrs. May has shown no sign of budging from her basic goal of taking Britain out of a customs union with the bloc.

Were she to accept staying in a customs union, which is Labour’s bedrock position, that would preclude Britain from forging trade deals on its own, defeating, in the minds of pro-Brexit lawmakers, the entire purpose of Brexit. Such a step would risk cabinet resignations and enrage the party faithful.

In the coming weeks there may be more votes in Parliament to gauge opinion on various approaches to Brexit, but the possibility of assembling a sustainable majority for any one blueprint still seems remote.

Conservative Brexit supporters are hoping they can replace Mrs. May with a hard-liner who could reopen the withdrawal agreement painfully negotiated over months with the European Union.

But European officials emphasize that the withdrawal agreement, including a provision known as the Irish backstop, designed to guarantee no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, will not change. If Britain wants a managed Brexit, it must pass the withdrawal agreement first, they say: Only then can the European Union begin negotiations on a future relationship.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

European Union Extends Brexit Deadline to Oct. 31

Westlake Legal Group european-union-extends-brexit-deadline-to-oct-31 European Union Extends Brexit Deadline to Oct. 31 May, Theresa M Juncker, Jean-Claude Great Britain Withdrawal from EU (Brexit) European Union Donald Tusk Brussels (Belgium)

BRUSSELS — With less than 48 hours before Britain’s scheduled departure, the European Union extended the exit deadline early Thursday until the end of October, avoiding a devastating cliff-edge divorce but settling none of the issues that have plunged British politics into chaos, dysfunction and recrimination.

On another difficult night for Britain’s prime minister, Theresa May, European leaders rejected her proposal for a postponement until June 30, concluding that such a short deadline was unrealistic for the departure known as Brexit.

However, they agreed to review the arrangement at the end of June to prevent British disruption to the bloc while the nation remains in Europe’s departure lounge.

Writing on Twitter, Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, confirmed that an agreement had been made and that Mrs. May had accepted it.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_153325701_2a96dc12-bb49-44de-9bda-448f83b45ea3-articleLarge European Union Extends Brexit Deadline to Oct. 31 May, Theresa M Juncker, Jean-Claude Great Britain Withdrawal from EU (Brexit) European Union Donald Tusk Brussels (Belgium)

From left, European Council President Donald Tusk, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel of Luxembourg, Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany at the start of a special summit meeting on Brexit at the European Council in Brussels on Wednesday.CreditOlivier Hoslet/EPA, via Shutterstock

“A Brexit extension until 31 October is sensible,” the prime minister of Malta, Joseph Muscat, wrote on Twitter after the agreement had been reached. He said the June review would allow the other European Union members to “take stock of the situation.”

Although the intense pressure of recent weeks may abate for now, the path ahead still resembles a minefield, dotted with explosive issues like a possible attempt to topple Mrs. May, a general election or a second Brexit referendum — or some combination of the three. Most immediately, Mrs. May is likely to face calls to step down, and potential successors are already trying to raise money and advertise their credentials.

The extension to Oct. 31 means that Britain will almost certainly have to hold elections for the European Parliament on May 23, something Mrs. May once argued would be absurd, almost three years after Britons voted for Brexit. That prospect seems certain to further anger hard-line Brexit supporters.

This was not the first time Mrs. May has requested a postponement to the withdrawal. Originally, she had promised Britons that she would achieve it by March 29, only to acknowledge last month that it was impossible. Having missed that deadline, Mrs. May was once again a supplicant to the 27 other leaders of the bloc, who made their latest decision after she had left the room following a brief presentation.

European leaders stressed that Britain’s Parliament would still have to pass the withdrawal agreement before there could be any discussions about the future relationship, even if the country left without an agreement first.CreditDan Kitwood/Getty Images

Having lost control of the process in Brussels, Mrs. May will return to a pitched battle with her pro-Brexit Conservative lawmakers, including a significant number who now want her out.

Some have been arguing that Britain should use an extension to sabotage European Union business from the inside. While Mrs. May has promised not to do so, her position is so shaky that thoughts are turning to how a successor might behave, particularly a pro-Brexit hard-liner like Boris Johnson, the former foreign secretary.

European nations had been divided between those who wanted a shorter extension, to keep up the pressure on Britain to resolve Brexit, and those who wanted to give it the time and space to reach a sensible conclusion.

On Wednesday it was France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, who took the toughest line, arguing that Britain needed to propose a credible plan to resolve the crisis.

The president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, center left, and the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, have suggested a lengthy extension to the Brexit deadline.CreditEmmanuel Dunand/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

But there was never any question of slamming the door on Britain and triggering a disruptive “no-deal” Brexit, which would have occurred Friday night in the absence of an extension.

To date, the British Parliament has shown little indication it will ever approve the withdrawal deal that Mrs. May negotiated with the European Union. That is a legally binding treaty that would resolve technical issues like the government’s outstanding financial commitments to the bloc and keep Britain inside its economic structures until at least December 2020.

After that point Mrs. May wants to detach Britain from Europe’s customs union and single market, and to take control of immigration from continental Europe.

That formula has been rejected three times in the British Parliament and, despite attempts to broker an accord with the opposition Labour Party, prospects for passage still look low.

Trucks queued last month on the main road into the Port of Dover, southern England, because of a work slowdown by French customs officers. The bottleneck illustrated the possible effect of a no-deal Brexit on traffic across the English Channel.CreditGareth Fuller/Press Association, via Associated Press

More talks between the British parties were scheduled for Thursday, but Labour has complained that Mrs. May has shown no signs of budging from her basic determination to take Britain out of a customs union with the bloc.

Were she to accept staying in a customs union, which is Labour’s bedrock position, that would preclude Britain forging trade deals on its own and defeating, in the minds of pro-Brexit lawmakers, the entire purpose of Brexit. Such a step would risk cabinet resignations, enrage the party faithful and possibly create a split.

In the coming weeks there may be more votes in Parliament to gauge opinion on various approaches to Brexit, but the possibility of assembling a sustainable majority for any one blueprint still seems remote.

Conservative Brexit supporters are hoping they can replace Mrs. May with a hard-liner who could reopen the withdrawal agreement painfully negotiated over months with the European Union.

But European officials emphasize that the withdrawal agreement, including a provision known as the Irish backstop, designed to guarantee no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, will not change. If Britain wants a managed Brexit, it must pass the withdrawal agreement first. Only then can the European Union begin negotiations on a future relationship.

But even if Britain never passes the withdrawal agreement and does finally leave the European Union without a deal, European officials emphasize that the central elements of the withdrawal agreement must be discussed before any other talks about how to regulate trade, customs and travel with Britain.

“The point of departure is the withdrawal agreement and we will not change it, even with no deal,” a senior European diplomat said on Wednesday. “The key elements of the withdrawal agreement — citizens’ rights, the Irish border and money — will have to be settled before any other discussion.” The Irish backstop, the diplomat said, “will still be there.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

European Union Offers Britain a Brexit Extension to Oct. 31

Westlake Legal Group european-union-offers-britain-a-brexit-extension-to-oct-31 European Union Offers Britain a Brexit Extension to Oct. 31 May, Theresa M Juncker, Jean-Claude Great Britain Withdrawal from EU (Brexit) European Union Donald Tusk Brussels (Belgium)

BRUSSELS — With less than 48 hours before Britain’s scheduled departure, the European Union offered to extend the exit deadline early Thursday until the end of October, avoiding a devastating cliff-edge divorce but settling none of the issues that have plunged British politics into chaos, dysfunction and recrimination.

On another difficult nightfor Britain’s prime minister, Theresa May, European leaders rejected her proposal for a postponement until June 30, concluding that such a short deadline was unrealistic for the departure known as Brexit. However, they agreed to review the arrangement at the end of June to prevent British disruption to the bloc while the nation remains in Europe’s departure lounge.

Writing on Twitter, Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, confirmed that an agreement had been made, but that Mrs. May had not yet technically accepted it.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_153325701_2a96dc12-bb49-44de-9bda-448f83b45ea3-articleLarge European Union Offers Britain a Brexit Extension to Oct. 31 May, Theresa M Juncker, Jean-Claude Great Britain Withdrawal from EU (Brexit) European Union Donald Tusk Brussels (Belgium)

From left, European Council President Donald Tusk, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel of Luxembourg, Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany at the start of a special summit meeting on Brexit at the European Council in Brussels on Wednesday.CreditOlivier Hoslet/EPA, via Shutterstock

Although the intense pressure of recent weeks may abate for now, the path ahead still resembles a minefield, dotted with explosive issues like a possible attempt to topple Mrs. May, a general election or a second Brexit referendum — or some combination of the three. Most immediately, Mrs. May is likely to face calls to step down, and potential successors are already trying to raise money and advertise their credentials.

The extension to Oct. 31 means that Britain will almost certainly have to hold elections for the European Parliament on May 23, something Mrs. May once argued would be absurd, almost three years after Britons voted for Brexit. That prospect seems certain to further anger hard-line Brexit supporters.

This was not the first time Mrs. May has requested a postponement to the withdrawal. Originally, she had promised Britons that she would achieve it by March 29, only to acknowledge last month that it was impossible. Having missed that deadline, Mrs. May was once again a supplicant to the 27 other leaders of the bloc, who made their latest decision after she had left the room following a brief presentation.

Having lost control of the process in Brussels, Mrs. May will return to a pitched battle with her pro-Brexit Conservative lawmakers, including a significant number who now want her out.

European leaders stressed that Britain’s Parliament would still have to pass the withdrawal agreement before there could be any discussions about the future relationship, even if the country left without an agreement first.CreditDan Kitwood/Getty Images

Some have been arguing that Britain should use an extension to sabotage European Union business from the inside. While Mrs. May has promised not to do so, her position is so shaky that thoughts are turning to how a successor might behave, particularly a pro-Brexit hard-liner like Boris Johnson, the former foreign secretary.

European nations had been divided between those who wanted a shorter extension, to keep up the pressure on Britain to resolve Brexit, and those who wanted to give it the time and space to reach a sensible conclusion.

On Wednesday it was France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, who took the toughest line, arguing that Britain needed to propose a credible plan to resolve the crisis.

But there was never any question of slamming the door on Britain and triggering a disruptive “no-deal” Brexit, which would have occurred Friday night in the absence of an extension.

The president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, center left, and the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, have suggested a lengthy extension to the Brexit deadline.CreditEmmanuel Dunand/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

To date, the British Parliament has shown little indication it will ever approve the withdrawal deal that Mrs. May negotiated with the European Union. That is a legally binding treaty that would resolve technical issues like the government’s outstanding financial commitments to the bloc and keep Britain inside its economic structures until at least December 2020.

After that point Mrs. May wants to detach Britain from Europe’s customs union and single market, and to take control of immigration from continental Europe.

That formula has been rejected three times in the British Parliament and, despite attempts to broker an accord with the opposition Labour Party, prospects for passage still look low.

More talks between the British parties were scheduled for Thursday, but Labour has complained that Mrs. May has shown no signs of budging from her basic determination to take Britain out of a customs union with the bloc.

Trucks queued last month on the main road into the Port of Dover, southern England, because of a work slowdown by French customs officers. The bottleneck illustrated the possible effect of a no-deal Brexit on traffic across the English Channel.CreditGareth Fuller/Press Association, via Associated Press

Were she to accept staying in a customs union, which is Labour’s bedrock position, that would preclude Britain forging trade deals on its own and defeating, in the minds of pro-Brexit lawmakers, the entire purpose of Brexit. Such a step would risk cabinet resignations, enrage the party faithful and possibly create a split.

In the coming weeks there may be more votes in Parliament to gauge opinion on various approaches to Brexit, but the possibility of assembling a sustainable majority for any one blueprint still seems remote.

Conservative Brexit supporters are hoping they can replace Mrs. May with a hard-liner who could reopen the withdrawal agreement painfully negotiated over months with the European Union.

But European officials emphasize that the withdrawal agreement, including a provision known as the Irish backstop, designed to guarantee no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, will not change. If Britain wants a managed Brexit, it must pass the withdrawal agreement first. Only then can the European Union begin negotiations on a future relationship.

But even if Britain never passes the withdrawal agreement and does finally leave the European Union without a deal, European officials emphasize that the central elements of the withdrawal agreement must be discussed before any other talks about how to regulate trade, customs and travel with Britain.

“The point of departure is the withdrawal agreement and we will not change it, even with no deal,” a senior European diplomat said on Wednesday. “The key elements of the withdrawal agreement — citizens’ rights, the Irish border and money — will have to be settled before any other discussion.” The Irish backstop, the diplomat said, “will still be there.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

E.U. Offers Brexit Extension to Oct. 31

BRUSSELS — With less than 48 hours before Britain’s scheduled departure, the European Union extended the exit deadline early Thursday until the end of October, avoiding a devastating cliff-edge divorce but settling none of the issues that have plunged British politics into chaos, dysfunction and recrimination.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_153325701_2a96dc12-bb49-44de-9bda-448f83b45ea3-articleLarge E.U. Offers Brexit Extension to Oct. 31 May, Theresa M Juncker, Jean-Claude Great Britain Withdrawal from EU (Brexit) European Union Donald Tusk Brussels (Belgium)

From left, European Council President Donald Tusk, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel of Luxembourg, Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany at the start of a special summit meeting on Brexit at the European Council in Brussels on Wednesday.CreditOlivier Hoslet/EPA, via Shutterstock

On another difficult night of negotiations for Britain’s prime minister, Theresa May, European leaders scrapped her proposal for a postponement until June 30, concluding that such a short deadline was unrealistic for the departure known as Brexit. However they agreed to review the arrangement at the end of June to prevent British disruption to the bloc while the nation remains in Europe’s departure lounge.

European leaders stressed that Britain’s Parliament would still have to pass the withdrawal agreement before there could be any discussions about the future relationship, even if the country left without an agreement first.CreditDan Kitwood/Getty Images

Writing on Twitter, Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, confirmed that an agreement had been made, but that Mrs. May had yet to accept it.

The president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, center left, and the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, have suggested a lengthy extension to the Brexit deadline.CreditEmmanuel Dunand/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Although the intense pressure of recent weeks will probably abate for now, the path ahead still resembles a minefield, dotted with explosive issues like a possible attempt to topple Mrs. May, a general election or a second Brexit referendum — or some combination of the three. Most immediately, Mrs. May is likely to face calls to step down, and potential successors are already trying to raise money and advertise their credentials.

Trucks queued last month on the main road into the Port of Dover, southern England, because of a work slowdown by French customs officers. The bottleneck illustrated the possible effect of a no-deal Brexit on traffic across the English Channel.CreditGareth Fuller/Press Association, via Associated Press

The extension to Oct. 31, reported by diplomats in Brussels, means that Britain will almost certainly have to hold elections for the European Parliament on May 23, something Mrs. May once argued would be absurd, almost three years after Britons voted for Brexit. That prospect seems certain to further anger hard-line Brexit supporters.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com