Thursday, March 14, 2019

Britain will have plenty of scope to cause trouble in Brussels after delay to Brexit

Published by The Telegraph

Auf Deutsch

The likes of EU Council President Donald Tusk and Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney have been doing their utmost to scare Brexiteers in Parliament into backing Theresa May's deal by raising the prospect of a very long extension of the UK's EU membership.

Apparently, Tusk has an extension of one year in mind, which puts him in agreement with EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s right-hand man, Martin Selmayr, and follows the strategy being outlined by Theresa May’s chief Brexit advisor Olly Robbins when he was overheard in a Brussels bar.

They might need to think twice before they make such an offer. It’s certainly worth considering what, precisely, a long extension would entail.

The first question is obviously whether the UK is obliged to hold European Parliament elections. The EU Treaty mandates that Members of the European Parliament are elected by "direct universal suffrage”, but different people hold different interpretations of what that means and to what extent acts of the European Parliament would no longer be legal in the absence of UK MEPs.

Jean-Claude Piris, the lawyer who wrote most of the recent EU Treaty updates, thinks the European Parliament should be able to continue to work, but "if there is a long extension, the UK would have to participate in May's elections".

Another issue is that the UK would still be around when the successor to Jean-Claude Juncker is decided. Five years ago, this was done at the end of June. Now, some are considering the possibility of letting Juncker’s Commission continue its work as a “caretaker” Commission until January.

The thinking goes that, hopefully, by then the UK will definitely have left and so a legally composed European Parliament, which would include MEPs from all member states, would be able to approve the new Commission.

This way of extending UK membership actually creates more headaches for the EU because there's no proper definition of what the Commission would be expected to do while it's still subject to “caretaker” status.

Extended British membership would also cause problems with regards to picking Juncker’s successor, as well as the successors to Tusk and EU “Foreign Minister” Federica Mogherini, which took place at the end of August last time round.

True, the UK was heavily outvoted in the decision to appoint Juncker when the only other opponent to his candidacy was Hungary. But if there are two or three serious contenders for any of these top roles this time around, the UK may well act as the powerbroker. How attractive is that prospect for the EU27?

If the UK government has any sense, after all, it will use its influence in those discussions as leverage in Brexit negotiations.

In the upcoming European Parliament elections, it’s unlikely that the eurosceptic anti-establishment parties that have emerged across the continent will be able to secure more than 200 out of the 705 seats, according to opinion polls.

Their influence will, however, result in less control for German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s centrist allies, which will have to share power, perhaps even with the greens.

If the UK dispatches a new legion of MEPs to Brussels and Strasbourg, which would no doubt include plenty of eurosceptics, the possibility of the parliament continuing with business as usual would shrink further.

Manfred Weber, whose bid to succeed Juncker has the support of the biggest parliamentary grouping, has also warned he’s concerned that if the UK took part in it, the European election campaign would be “hijacked by the British disaster”.

All this disruption will have a serious knock-on effect on the functioning of the EU. Already, according to Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders, negotiations on the EU’s long term 2021-2027 budget “are very difficult". Members are desperately trying to reach agreement on how big it should be and how they can fill the gap left by the UK's departure.

Their plan was to try and sort this out in peace after the Parliament elections (which, of course, is also supposed to be after the UK has left). The UK being able to effect already difficult budget talks is not something the EU will be looking forward to.

Many forget that if the UK were to somehow stay in the EU after all, it would be a much more difficult partner than before. Legally, it would be “business as usual”, as the UK would keep all its opt-outs, but politically, no UK government would ignore the more than 17 million people that voted for Brexit and that would let their voice be heard.

Whether it would be about proposals for EU regulations, tax harmonisation or EU budget talks: the sound of the British “no” would be louder than ever before.

1 comment:

Peter Scofield said...

If you need to hire a real hacker to turn your partner's phone remotely, contact or WhatsApp +1 3478577580