Why Brexit Stage Two may turn into a rocky ride

  • 9 January 2020
  • From the section Europe
Prime Minister Boris Johnson (R) and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen meet at 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, 08 January 2020 Image copyright EPA
Image caption Mrs von der Leyen said negotiating all aspects of the UK's future relationship with the EU by the end of 2020 would be "basically impossible"

"Only as true friends can, I want to be very honest about what lies ahead of us." The words of the new European Commission president as she headed to Downing Street and her first face-to-face meeting with Boris Johnson on Wednesday.

What lies ahead of the EU and UK might, on the surface, appear relatively straightforward.

By the end of this month, both the European and the UK parliaments will have ratified a negotiated divorce deal. As of 1 February, the UK will no longer be an EU member and by the year's end, says Boris Johnson, an ambitious new trade deal will have been negotiated and signed off by both sides.

So is he right?

Will this be a year of bilateral plain sailing?

With Mr Johnson's considerable parliamentary majority, nothing stands in the way of Brexit taking place. 31 January will be a huge moment. For the UK and the EU. For very different reasons.

Read full article Why Brexit Stage Two may turn into a rocky ride

UK general election 2019: EU prepares for Brexit hardball

  • 13 December 2019
  • From the section Europe
Leaders L-R: Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, Estonia's PM Juri Ratas, Netherlands PM Mark Rutte and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen Image copyright AFP
Image caption EU leaders hope for more UK clarity on Brexit now after Boris Johnson's triumph

"Friday the 13th really has lived up to its hype," an EU diplomat texted me this morning. The same diplomat who mournfully noted as soon as the first exit polls were published: "This means bye-bye to our British friends."

There was a heaviness of heart about Europe's leaders as they gathered in Brussels for the second day of an EU summit. They have never hidden their sadness at the UK vote to leave.

Read full article UK general election 2019: EU prepares for Brexit hardball

Johnson's race for trade deal strengthens EU hand

  • 9 December 2019
  • From the section Europe
UK PM Boris Johnson, 17 Oct 19 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption EU leaders and Boris Johnson agreed on a revised UK Brexit deal in October

Over and over again in this election campaign you hear supporters of Boris Johnson confidently asserting that "he did it with the Brexit deal: he got the EU to renegotiate when most people said it'd be impossible.

"So who cares about those who now openly doubt his ability to get a trade deal done with the EU by December next year? The doubters were wrong before. They'll be proved wrong again."

Read full article Johnson's race for trade deal strengthens EU hand

How fast could UK-EU trade deal be struck?

  • 22 November 2019
  • From the section Europe
Johnson and Corbyn during ITV debate Image copyright AFP
Image caption Brussels fears that whether Corbyn or the Johnson form a government, 2020 could well be another year of uncertainty

"Not in my wildest dreams would I imagine that a possibility!"

This is how an influential European diplomat responded when I put to him Boris Johnson's assertion that a trade deal with the EU could/would/should be completed by December next year.

Read full article How fast could UK-EU trade deal be struck?

Jean-Claude Juncker: 'I've had enough Brexit', outgoing EU chief says

  • 5 November 2019
  • From the section Europe
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Media captionJean-Claude Juncker: "Brexit is a too-long story that has to be brought to an end"

Famous for extravagant pronouncements and gestures like kissing EU leaders on the forehead or playfully slapping their face - Jean Claude Juncker was untypically guarded. He clearly didn't want to be seen to be trying to interfere in the general election.

However, when I put some Brexit promises to him being made by the various political parties, engage he did, crushing a number of key party pledges in the process - from an EU perspective, at least.

Read full article Jean-Claude Juncker: 'I've had enough Brexit', outgoing EU chief says

Brexit: Is this latest extension the final delay?

  • 28 October 2019
  • From the section Europe
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The EU has told Boris Johnson to select a UK candidate for the new European Commission

Boris Johnson has now written to the EU accepting a new Brexit extension until 31 January. But do EU leaders believe this will be the last delay before Brexit?

In his letter to Brussels, the UK prime minister urges the EU to make clear that a further extension beyond January is simply not on offer.

Read full article Brexit: Is this latest extension the final delay?

Brexit dance goes on as EU approves new extension for UK

  • 28 October 2019
  • From the section Europe
Anti-Brexit activists' EU flags are pictured alongside the Union flags of pro-Brexit activists as they demonstrate outside of the Houses of Parliament in London on 28 October 2019 Image copyright AFP

The EU has finally announced its informal approval of a new Brexit extension: a full three months, running until 31 January, as suggested in the UK prime minister's extension request.

But what an excruciatingly long and confusing political dance to get there. And the dance is not over yet.

Read full article Brexit dance goes on as EU approves new extension for UK

Brexit: Deja vu as France digs in heels over extension

  • 24 October 2019
  • From the section Europe
French President Emmanuel Macron gestures at a news conference in Brussels, Belgium on 18 October 2019. Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The French president is fed up with how long the Brexit process is taking

There's a strong sense of déjà vu in the EU's Brexit extension discussions.

As Westminster waits and the prime minister calls for an official EU decision to be made, France is acting as a spoke in the wheels. Much as it did back in spring when leaders debated the April Brexit extension.

Read full article Brexit: Deja vu as France digs in heels over extension

EU eyes Brexit flextension (again)

  • 23 October 2019
  • From the section Europe
EU and UK flags Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Brexit deal is now in limbo after Tuesday's votes in the House of Commons

"The ball is not in our court. The balls are all stuck in the UK's net."

The EU diplomat I was speaking to was frustrated. Hugely frustrated that the EU's newly negotiated Brexit deal was now stuck in limbo after Tuesday's votes in the House of Commons. He was irritated too that the prime minister said the next move would be decided in Brussels.

Read full article EU eyes Brexit flextension (again)

Reluctant EU considers Brexit extension request

  • 20 October 2019
  • From the section Europe
London protester holds up photo of Boris Johnson with clown's make-up, 19 October 2019 Image copyright EPA
Image caption London saw a huge protest on Saturday, calling for a second referendum on Brexit

Boris Johnson made it crystal clear on Saturday: he did not want to write to EU leaders requesting another Brexit extension.

And they were crystal clear in telephone calls with him that day that they were far from thrilled to be asked.

Read full article Reluctant EU considers Brexit extension request