Brexit: EU wins itself some breathing space

  • 22 March 2019
  • From the section Europe
British Prime Minister Theresa May walks away after holding a press conference in Brussels on March 22, 2019 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Theresa May is urging British MPs to pass her withdrawal agreement

By the time the 27 EU leaders emerged at their Brussels summit, bleary-eyed from hours of bad-tempered debate about delaying Brexit, it became clear that they had "done a May".

By that, I mean they had managed to kick the Brexit crunch-time can another couple of weeks down the road - something Theresa May has become famous for throughout the Brexit process.

"12 April is the new 29 March," announced one Brussels official, although it's not quite as straightforward as that.

EU leaders have essentially granted the UK a no-strings-attached short Brexit delay until 12 April.

By 12 April either Theresa May's Brexit deal has to have been passed by the House of Commons - in which case the UK would have until 22 May to ratify it - or she must inform the EU of alternative plans.

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Brexit: EU wary of divisions over UK delay

  • 18 March 2019
  • From the section Europe
Donald Tusk Image copyright AFP/Getty
Image caption Can European Council President Donald Tusk unify all of the EU's leaders?

The EU has almost given up understanding what's going on in UK politics.

This weekend, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte compared UK Prime Minister Theresa May to the Monty Python knight whose limbs get cut off in a duel, but insists to his opponent that the fight was a draw.

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Brexit: Will EU leaders agree to an extension?

  • 15 March 2019
  • From the section Europe
Theresa May arrives for a family photo during the European Union leaders informal summit in Salzburg Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Theresa May will need to formally ask the EU's 27 other leaders for an extension

In contrast to the sound and fury coming out of Westminster on Thursday night, the silence on EU leaders' Twitter accounts was deafening.

In part it is surely a stunned silence. Europe's politicians gaze open mouthed at the maelstrom of division and chaos currently whirling through the House of Commons.

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Brexit: EU points finger at UK for Theresa May's deal defeat

  • 13 March 2019
  • From the section Europe
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (l), European Council President Donald Tusk (c) and European Union's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier (r) Image copyright Reuters
Image caption EU politicians are united whereas British ones are not

Once again - just as the last time the Brexit deal was rejected in parliament - reaction by EU leaders was prompt, co-ordinated and on message.

It was a result they'd been dreading but expecting.

Read full article Brexit: EU points finger at UK for Theresa May's deal defeat

Brussels in bleak mood in 'crunch' Brexit week

  • 11 March 2019
  • From the section Europe
Theresa May standing amongst EU flags Image copyright EPA
Image caption EU sources are asking who Theresa May stands for when it comes to Brexit

"Is this a crunch week? Is this not a crunch week? What does this have to do with us any more?" an EU diplomat from a country traditionally close to the UK asked me this weekend.

"Are you having meaningful votes? Are you not?" says another. "Does one cabinet minister agree with the other? Exactly what do you want changed to the backstop? Is the backstop really the only objection to the Withdrawal Agreement? It's up to you British. The EU has no magic wand to wave."

Read full article Brussels in bleak mood in 'crunch' Brexit week

Brexit: EU sticks to its script as finish line looms

  • 25 February 2019
  • From the section Europe
Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker smile and shake hands in front of the flags of their respective nations Image copyright AFP
Image caption All smiles? As the clock ran down, speculation was rife about a Brexit delay

Determined to appear positive, Jean-Claude Juncker's spokeswoman described the European Commission President's latest meeting with Theresa May as "constructive". He said "good progress" was made.

That's the same Jean-Claude Juncker who just a few days ago complained of Brexit fatigue, and said no agreement on a revised Brexit deal was on the horizon. So what changed?

Read full article Brexit: EU sticks to its script as finish line looms

Brexit: Great UK expectations meet EU reality

  • 20 February 2019
  • From the section Europe
British Prime Minister Theresa May meets with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to discuss Brexit, at the EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium December 11, 2018. Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Theresa May will meet, again, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (file photo)

Just hours ahead of UK Prime Minister Theresa May's touch-down here in Brussels, there is evidence - once again - of a yawning gulf between what's being hinted at by her office and the EU's reality.

Downing Street expects a revised Brexit deal in the offing, possibly ready for the House of Commons to vote on early next week. EU chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, is still talking about a "worrying political impasse".

Read full article Brexit: Great UK expectations meet EU reality

Why EU leaders are not ready to budge on Brexit

  • 14 February 2019
  • From the section Europe
Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionWhy did May lose another Brexit vote?

"Has the prime minister's new defeat in parliament made the EU more likely to compromise?"

I've been asked over and again on BBC programmes following Thursday's vote on Theresa May's Brexit strategy.

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Brexit: What awaits Theresa May in Brussels after 'hell' jibe?

  • 7 February 2019
  • From the section Europe
British Prime Minister Theresa May makes a speech Image copyright Getty Images

There's pretty much zero expectation that any real progress will be made on Thursday when Theresa May comes back to Brussels looking for changes to the backstop - that fall-back guarantee written into the Brexit deal to keep the Irish border open.

Nonetheless, we'll inevitably be poring over every word, every tone, every hint of body language on display after the prime minister's meetings with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and the President of the European Council Donald Tusk.

Read full article Brexit: What awaits Theresa May in Brussels after 'hell' jibe?

Brexit: EU digs heels in over deal

  • 4 February 2019
  • From the section Europe
President of the European Union Commission Jean-Claude Juncker (L), flanked by European Chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier (R), speaks during a session of the parliament at the EU headquarters, in Brussels, on January 30, 2019 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Not an inch? Top EU officials Jean-Claude Juncker (L) and Michel Barnier in Brussels

So. How open does the EU seem almost a week on from parliament narrowly voting in favour of an amendment to find alternatives to the backstop guarantee to keep the Irish border open after Brexit?

After all, with every passing day as we've heard , again and again and again, the clock is ticking us all towards an increased chance of a no-deal Brexit with all the costs and chaos that could involve.

Read full article Brexit: EU digs heels in over deal