Baptism of fire for UK's new Brexit minister

  • 19 July 2018
  • From the section Europe
raab Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Raab replaced David Davis earlier this month

It's going to be quite a baptism of fire for the UK's new Brexit secretary on his first visit to Brussels in the new job.

He'll hardly have a foot through the door at the European Commission before he's faced with a barrage of questions. The EU wants clarity on the UK's negotiating position: is it based on Theresa May's Chequers cabinet agreement or the subsequent parliamentary amendments? Will the UK position change again in a few days or a week's time?

The EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier then has another message he's hell-bent on delivering. Work with us, he will say to Dominic Raab, to finish the UK's exit deal - the so-called Withdrawal Agreement - otherwise the chances are rising of the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal come March next year.

Now coincidence of coincidences, just as Mr Raab arrives in town, the European Commission will publish a paper instructing EU governments to do more to prepare for the possibility of a no-deal Brexit which - it warns - would have a considerable impact on European businesses and citizens.

The paper mentions amongst other things the potential immediate impact on EU borders - with goods and people from the UK subject to customs checks. It predicts the aviation industry could be severely disrupted- with EU-UK airline and passenger rights agreements no longer valid. It advises that personal data transfers to the UK would be subject to new limitations and that the City of London would no longer have financial passporting rights.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Barnier is warning that the chances of a no deal Brexit could rise

Read full article Baptism of fire for UK's new Brexit minister

Why Brussels is keeping quiet on May's White Paper

  • 13 July 2018
  • From the section Europe
Prime Minister Theresa May with President of the European Council Donald Tusk inside No 10 Downing Street, London Image copyright PA
Image caption PM Theresa May has set out her plans for Brexit - but EU bigwigs are in no hurry to comment for now

Even the president of the United States now sees fit to weigh in on the Brexit path Theresa May is taking.

Donald Trump has said, amongst other things, that if the prime minister is successful in her plan - formalised on Thursday in a White Paper - then that would make a future trade deal with the US far less likely.

Read full article Why Brussels is keeping quiet on May's White Paper

Brussels fears UK cabinet crisis may be a path to no-deal Brexit

  • 9 July 2018
  • From the section Europe
Brexit negotiators, Exiting the European Union Secretary David Davis (right) with Sir Tim Barrow Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the European Union (centre), and Olly Robbins (left) with an unnamed aide in Number Nine Downing Street, Image copyright PA
Image caption Brussels was not worried about David Davis (far right) leaving; the possibility Olly Robbins (far left) might depart was far more concerning

David Davis's resignation was met with a collective shrug of the shoulders in Brussels on Monday. "How can we miss a man who was never here?", one EU source commented to me. The Brexit secretary made one visit to Brussels in the last four months.

A far more familiar face here is Olly Robbins, the prime minister's Europe adviser. The EU is reassured that he's staying in his post - for now. But the mood in Brussels - especially after hearing this afternoon that Boris Johnson too was gone - is far from blasé.

Read full article Brussels fears UK cabinet crisis may be a path to no-deal Brexit

Europe's migration crisis: Could it finish the EU?

  • 28 June 2018
  • From the section Europe
Migrants on an inflatable boat boarding the Lifeline sea rescue boat at sea on June 21, 2018 Image copyright AFP
Image caption The splits within the EU have been highlighted by Italy's refusal to accept migrants carried by NGO rescue boats in the Mediterranean

Hardened Eurosceptics might love to think the EU's in trouble, but as leaders gather in Brussels for their summer summit on Thursday, dedicated Europhiles are also sounding the alarm.

"The fragility of the EU is increasing," warns EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker. "The cracks are growing in size."

Read full article Europe's migration crisis: Could it finish the EU?

EU's Mediterranean migrant crisis: Just a mess or cynical politics?

  • 13 June 2018
  • From the section Europe
A migrant is helped off the coast guard ship "Diciotti" after arriving at Catania Port, Italy, 13 June 2018 Image copyright EPA
Image caption Although the NGO rescue ship Aquarius was barred from Italian ports, coastguard ship Diciotti brought more than 900 migrants to Sicily on Wednesday

How easy it would be to bash out a righteous-sounding blog, slamming Italy's "far-right, anti-immigration, populist" deputy prime minister for bringing Europe's migration policy to its knees by cynically closing Italy's ports to the migrant rescue ship, Aquarius.

But, like most easy-sounding explanations for complex situations, the description above is facile; the truth far more grey than black-and-white.

Read full article EU's Mediterranean migrant crisis: Just a mess or cynical politics?

Brexit misconceptions - as seen from Brussels

  • 7 June 2018
  • From the section Europe
UK Prime Minister Theresa May returns to 10 Downing Street in London, June 6, 2018 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption UK Prime Minister Theresa May held crunch meetings with ministers on Thursday amid cabinet disagreements over Brexit

"Wow," gushed a European journalist to me the other day, "normally we look to Italy for political drama and uncertainty but the UK is making a pretty good show of it."

So dizzying and confused is the news coming out of the UK about how the EU-UK relationship could and should work after Brexit, that EU negotiators say they are forced to stand on the sidelines while the British government talks and argues with itself.

Read full article Brexit misconceptions - as seen from Brussels

Should Europe be scared of Italy's populists?

  • 23 May 2018
  • From the section Europe
A pro-EU Italian in Florence, September 2017 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Could Italy leave the EU?

There should be a health warning attached to all debate, guesswork, predictions and evaluations being made right now about the anti-establishment government being put together in Rome.

Yes, this is very much part of the populist nationalist wave that has been sweeping across Europe from Austria, to Hungary, France and the UK but at the same time you really have to view this drama through a pair of Italian opera glasses to get a better sense of what's going on.

Read full article Should Europe be scared of Italy's populists?

EU wonders if Theresa May has run out of 'Brexit fudge'

  • 4 May 2018
  • From the section Europe
British Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street on May 2, 2018 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The prime minister asked officials to come up with "revised proposals" after a cabinet meeting on what should replace UK membership of the EU's customs union

Pollen and blossoms fill the sneezy, windy Brussels air these lovely spring days but pessimism, too, hangs very heavy.

While nothing compared to the screaming, shouting mother of all political rollercoaster rides in the UK when it comes to Brexit, the EU is on a children's version of the above at the very least.

Read full article EU wonders if Theresa May has run out of 'Brexit fudge'

Brexit: Why Brussels seems relaxed about the end game

  • 17 April 2018
  • From the section Europe
A Union Jack flies next to European Union flags in front of the European Commission, 16 October 2017 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption With less than a year until "Brexit Day", a number of issues remain unresolved

After all the impatient European foot-tapping, the incessant talk of ticking clocks and of Article 50 time running out, there's a distinctly laid-back air in Brussels at the moment when it comes to Brexit.

"Relations are a lot more normalised between the UK and the rest of the us after the Salisbury attacks and the show of solidarity with Britain at the EU leaders' summit two weeks ago," one European diplomat told me.

Read full article Brexit: Why Brussels seems relaxed about the end game

Brexit: The EU perspective on the one-year countdown

  • 29 March 2018
  • From the section Europe
A demonstration outside of UK Houses of Parliament with EU flags Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The UK is due to officially leave the EU on Thursday 29 March 2019, dubbed Brexit Day

As the UK marks one year until Brexit, Brussels negotiators are indulging in a bit of muttering under their breath .

They consider the 12-months-to-go focus misleading for two main reasons:

Read full article Brexit: The EU perspective on the one-year countdown