France, Spain and Belgium ‘ready for no-deal Brexit next week’

Chance of May getting 30 June extension appear slim after notes of EU meeting emerge

France has won the support of Spain and Belgium after signalling its readiness for a no-deal Brexit on 12 April if there are no significant new British proposals, according to a note of an EU27 meeting seen by the Guardian.

The diplomatic cable reveals that the French ambassador secured the support of Spanish and Belgian colleagues in arguing that there should only be, at most, a short article 50 extension to avoid an instant financial crisis, saying: We could probably extend for a couple of weeks to prepare ourselves in the markets.

The chances of Theresa Mays proposal of an extension to 30 June succeeding appeared slim as Frances position in the private diplomatic meeting was echoed by an official statement reiterating its opposition to any further Brexit delay without a clear British plan.


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    May wrote to the president of the European council, Donald Tusk, on Friday to ask for the delay until 30 June while she battles to win cross-party agreement on a way forward.

    EU states are extremely sceptical that an extension to 30 June will resolve anything in Westminster. Tusk is pushing the EU to offer at a summit next Wednesday what he has described as a flextension in which the UK would be given a year-long extension with an option to come out early if the deal is ratified.

    Responding to Mays letter publicly, Frances secretary of state for European affairs, Amlie de Montchalin, told the Guardian in a statement: The European council took a clear decision on 21 March Another extension requires the UK to put forward a plan with clear and credible political backing. The council would then define the necessary conditions attached to that extension, she said.

    [I]n the absence of such a plan, we would have to acknowledge that the UK chose to leave the EU in a disorderly manner.

    According to the diplomatic cable of the EU27 meeting, the French ambassador said he failed to see in Theresa Mays letter any argument in favour of a long extension.

    The French ambassador took a sterner line than de Montchalin, insisting that there was no justification, and only danger, in extending the UKs membership of the EU.

    If the EU did only allow a two-week extension the UK would then have an opportunity to revoke article 50, setting up the possibility of a straight vote in parliament between leaving with no deal and overturning the result of the referendum.

    But despite the French intervention, a second EU source insisted the discussion showed wide support to Tusks idea of a long flextension.

    Some member states insisted on the need to have a clear UK plan before granting a long extension, the source added. Some member states insisted on assurances for sincere cooperation.

    The German representative argued that a no-deal Brexit should be avoided at all costs, the diplomatic note said. There are positive elements to the letter, the ambassador added. Already the Conservatives discussion with Labour provides enough to justify an extension. But we agree that we need more precision, as the French suggest.

    But Paris is lobbying for EU governments to stay true to the summit communique of 21 March, where leaders offered an extension until 22 May should the withdrawal agreement be approved.

    A longer extension would be granted if there was a clear indication from the British government on the way forward, which it does not believe has yet materialised.

    France, with the agreement of the Belgian and Spanish ambassadors, agreed that the current position coming from London did not meet these conditions.

    If the European council were to take the view that it is going to be a no deal next week, we could probably extend for a couple of weeks to prepare ourselves in the markets, the French ambassador said, according to the diplomatic note.

    A no agreement is still the most probable scenario, Frances ambassador concluded, with the subsequent agreement of Spain and Belgium.

    A senior EU official briefing the ambassadors conceded there were concerns about a tweet earlier on Friday by the Conservative MP and chairman of the Eurosceptic European Research Group, Jacob Rees-Mogg, stating that the British government should disrupt the EU from within in the event of a long extension of EU membership.

    The functioning of the EU is a central element as how we proceed, the official said. The tweet of Jacob Rees-Mogg showed what they are capable of.

    Earlier in the day a European commission spokesman played down the impact of Rees-Moggs remarks. He said: This gentleman is not our interlocutor and I would say then that the principle of sincere cooperation does apply as the Prime Minister May herself makes it clear in her letter.

    But an EU source said that the threat implicit in the Conservative MPs tweet was turning into the biggest issue. How can we make sure the UK doesnt pull a Jacob Rees-Mogg? How can we make sure they play nice? On the one hand a short extension or a no-deal carries risks, but a long extension risks paralysis.

    Later, the European parliaments chief Brexit representative, Guy Verhofstadt, wrote in response to Rees-Moggs tweet: For those in the EU who may be tempted to further extend the Brexit saga, I can only say, be careful what you wish for.

    In the meeting, the German ambassador said that all efforts should be made to avoid a no-deal Brexit, given the economic consequences on both sides of the Channel. Keep the ball in Londons court, the German ambassador said. Long or short extension, I dont want to get into that. Lets see.

    Berlins representative said that it took hope from the cross-party talks with Jeremy Corbyns Labour party, while conceding that any extension should include tough conditions to prevent London from meddling in the EUs long-term planning, including its budget.

    EU sources said that strong conditions on any extension might be the key to persuading France to agree to avoid no deal.

    But according to the leaked diplomatic cable, the French ambassador offered a hard-hitting response that went to the heart of the blocs problems: All this is very well, but conditionality on membership are not possible.

    This is not good enough for us, the ambassador added. Sources from the lyse Palace had been quoted earlier in the day describing Tusks offer as a clumsy trial balloon.

    The Netherlands, the UKs closest ally in the Brexit talks, is yet to take a clear position. But on Friday the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, said Britains request needed to be clarified before or at a summit.

    Theresa Mays letter raises many questions, which need to be discussed, Rutte told reporters. We hope for more clarity from London before next Wednesday.

    Original Article : HERE ; This post was curated & posted using : RealSpecific

     


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