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Invitation from Donald Tusk to the members of the EU Council

Invitation letter from President Donald Tusk to the members of the European Council ahead of their meetings on 21 and 22 March 2019.

https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2019/03/20/invitation-letter-by-president-donald-tusk-to-the-members-of-the-european-council-ahead-of-their-meetings-on-21-and-22-march-2019/

As we meet tomorrow for the European Council, let me start with Brexit, which will be the first topic of our discussions.

Today I received a letter from Prime Minister May, in which she addresses the European Council with two requests: to approve the so-called Strasbourg agreement between the UK and the European Commission, and to extend the Article 50 period until the 30th of June 2019.

In the light of the consultations that I have been conducting over the past days, I believe that we could consider a short extension conditional on a positive vote on the Withdrawal Agreement in the House of Commons. The question remains open as to the duration of such an extension. Prime Minister May’s proposal, of the 30th of June, which has its merits, creates a series of questions of a legal and political nature. We will discuss it in detail tomorrow. When it comes to the approval of the Strasbourg agreement, I believe that this is possible, and in my view it does not create risks. Especially if it were to help the ratification process in the UK.

At this time I do not foresee an extraordinary European Council. If you were to approve my recommendations, and if there were a positive vote in the House of Commons next week, we could finalise and formalise the decision on the extension using a written procedure.

Even if the hope for a final success may seem frail, even illusory, and although Brexit fatigue is increasingly visible and justified, we cannot give up seeking – until the very last moment – a positive solution, of course without opening up the Withdrawal Agreement. We have reacted with patience and goodwill to numerous turns of events, and I am confident that, also now, we will not lack the same patience and goodwill, at this most critical point in this process.

Beyond Brexit we will also address the longer-term issues facing us. In a more unstable world, shaken by new global, technological and environmental realities, there is no doubt that only together can we set our own course and defend the strategic interests of the Union. This is true whether we are talking about strengthening our economic base, combating unfair practices or tackling climate change. We will therefore discuss how to use all the levers at our disposal to safeguard the interests of our citizens and companies. China is a key global player in all these issues. We will have an in-depth exchange of views on the direction of our overall relations with China, ahead of the upcoming EU-China summit. On Ukraine, five years after the illegal annexation of Crimea, we stand firm in our commitment to Ukrainian sovereignty. We will adopt conclusions recalling our resolve. Finally, setting our own course also means protecting our democracies from manipulation and interference from inside and outside the EU. We will return to efforts to combat the threat of disinformation and to protect elections across the EU.

The European Council will start on Thursday afternoon with our usual exchange with President Tajani. We will then turn to Prime Minister May who will share her assessment of the latest developments regarding Brexit. After this, we will discuss the next steps concerning Brexit at 27. We will reconvene at 28 for dinner to discuss our relations with China. The following day, we will celebrate 25 years of cooperation with our partners from the European Economic Area. Next, we will start the Friday morning working session with a debriefing from President Iohannis on progress in implementing our previous conclusions. The European Council will discuss the economic situation in the presence of President Draghi. We will then address the future of our economic base, climate change, disinformation and the protection of elections and adopt the conclusions. I expect our meeting to conclude by lunchtime.

Statement by Donald Tusk on Brexit 20 March 2019

Statement by Donald Tusk on Brexit 20 March 2019 after receiving a letter from Theresa May asking for an extension to the Article 50 period which is due to expire on 29 March 2019.

https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2019/03/20/statement-by-president-donald-tusk-on-brexit/

…I believe that a short extension will be possible, but it will be conditional on a positive vote on the Withdrawal Agreement in the House of Commons…

State in full,

Today I received a letter from Prime Minister May, in which she addresses the European Council with two requests: to approve the so-called Strasbourg agreement between the UK and the European Commission, and to extend the Article 50 period until 30 June 2019. Just now I had a phone call with Prime Minister May about these proposals.

In the light of the consultations that I have conducted over the past days, I believe that a short extension will be possible, but it will be conditional on a positive vote on the Withdrawal Agreement in the House of Commons. The question remains open as to the duration of such an extension. Prime Minister May’s proposal, of 30 June, which has its merits, creates a series of questions of a legal and political nature. Leaders will discuss this tomorrow. When it comes to the approval of the Strasbourg agreement, I believe that this is possible, and in my view it does not create risks. Especially if it were to help the ratification process in the United Kingdom.

At this time I do not foresee an extraordinary European Council. If the leaders approve my recommendations, and if there is a positive vote in the House of Commons next week, we can finalise and formalise the decision on the extension in a written procedure. However, if there is such a need, I will not hesitate to invite the members of the European Council for a meeting to Brussels next week.

Even if the hope for a final success may seem frail, even illusory, and although Brexit fatigue is increasingly visible and justified, we cannot give up seeking – until the very last moment – a positive solution, of course without opening up the Withdrawal Agreement. We have reacted with patience and goodwill to numerous turns of events, and I am confident that, also now, we will not lack the same patience and goodwill, at this most critical point in this process. Thank you.

Brexit – Round up of recent comment from the EU

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Tweets from Donald Tusk

Jan 20

My message to PM @theresa_may: The EU position is clear and consistent. The Withdrawal Agreement is not open for renegotiation. Yesterday, we found out what the UK doesn’t want. But we still don’t know what the UK does want. #brexit

Feb 6

I’ve been wondering what that special place in hell looks like, for those who promoted #Brexit, without even a sketch of a plan how to carry it out safely.

Feb 6

Today our most important task is to prevent a no deal #Brexit. I hope that tomorrow we will hear from PM @theresa_may a realistic suggestion on how to end the impasse. http://goo.gl/2DJGJr

Feb 7

Meeting PM @theresa_may on how to overcome impasse on #brexit. Still no breakthrough in sight. Talks will continue.

Feb 13

No news is not always good news. EU27 still waiting for concrete, realistic proposals from London on how to break #Brexit impasse.


Statement by Donald Tusk after his meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on the 6 February

There are 50 days left until the UK’s exit from the European Union, following the decision and the will of the UK authorities. I know that still a very great number of people in the UK, and on the continent, as well as in Ireland, wish for a reversal of this decision. I have always been with you, with all my heart. But the facts are unmistakable. At the moment, the pro-Brexit stance of the UK Prime Minister, and the Leader of the Opposition, rules out this question. Today, there is no political force and no effective leadership for remain. I say this without satisfaction, but you can’t argue with the facts.

Today our most important task is to prevent a no deal scenario. I would, once again, like to stress that the position of the EU27 is clear, as expressed in the documents agreed with the UK government – that is the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration – and the EU27 is not making any new offer. Let me recall that the December European Council decided that the Withdrawal Agreement is not open for re-negotiation. I hope that tomorrow we will hear from Prime Minister May a realistic suggestion on how to end the impasse, in which the process of the orderly withdrawal of the UK from the EU has found itself, following the latest votes in the House of Commons.

The top priority for us, remains the issue of the border on the island of Ireland, and the guarantee to maintain the peace process in accordance with the Good Friday Agreement. There is no room for speculation here. The EU itself is first and foremost a peace project. We will not gamble with peace; or put a sell-by date on reconciliation. And this is why we insist on the backstop. Give us a believable guarantee for peace in Northern Ireland, and the UK will leave the EU as a trusted friend. I hope that the UK government will present ideas that will both respect this point of view and, at the same time, command a stable and clear majority in the House of Commons. I strongly believe that a common solution is possible, and I will do everything in my power to find it.

A sense of responsibility also tells us to prepare for a possible fiasco. The Taoiseach and I have spoken about the necessary actions in case of no deal; I know that you will also be discussing this shortly with the European Commission.

By the way, I’ve been wondering what that special place in hell looks like, for those who promoted Brexit, without even a sketch of a plan how to carry it out safely. Thank you.


Joint statement by President Jean-Claude Juncker and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar 6 February 2019

The Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration have been negotiated in good faith and have been agreed by all 27 Leaders of the European Union Member States as well as by the United Kingdom Government.

As we have said on many occasions, the Withdrawal Agreement is the best and only deal possible. It is not open for renegotiation.

The backstop is an integral part of the Withdrawal Agreement. While we hope the backstop will not need to be used, it is a necessary legal guarantee to protect peace and to ensure there will be no return to a hard border on the island of Ireland, while protecting the integrity of our Single Market and the Customs Union.

The Withdrawal Agreement, including the backstop, is a balanced compromise, representing a good outcome for citizens and businesses on all sides, including in Northern Ireland.

The backstop is not a bilateral issue, but a European one. Ireland’s border is also the border of the European Union and its market is part of the Single Market. We will stay united on this matter.

We will continue to seek agreement on the orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom but we will also step up our preparation for a no-deal scenario. In this context, programmes that provide support for cross-border peace and reconciliation in the border counties of Ireland and Northern Ireland will be continued and strengthened. The Commission stands ready to support Ireland in finding solutions answering the specific challenges that Ireland and Irish citizens, farmers and businesses will face. We will work closely together to this end over the coming weeks.

We will continue to remind the Government of the United Kingdom of its responsibilities under the Good Friday Agreement, with or without a deal.


Tweets from Guy Verhofstadt

29 Jan

Welcome the UK Parliament’s decision to reject a no-deal & the hope of cross-party talks on future relationship. We stand by Ireland & the Good Friday Agreement. There is no majority to re-open or dilute the Withdrawal Agreement in the @Europarl_EN including the backstop.

30 Jan

PM May is coming back to Brussels. She is always welcome, especially in @Europarl_EN, but what for? A breakthrough is only possible if the UK’s red lines change. Mrs May’s mandate from the UK Parliament is against something, but there is no stable majority in favour of something.

30 Jan

Political instability in the UK makes it difficult to conclude a lasting deal & highlights why we need an “all weather” backstop. Mrs. May & Mr. Corbyn are meeting & I hope it will be more than just tea & biscuits. We need a broad stable majority, which puts country before party.

6 Feb

Today I see Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and tomorrow Prime Minister May. My message to the UK will be that it is not very responsible to try to get rid of a backstop that is meant as an ultimate safeguard to avoid a hard border and the return of violence on the Island of Ireland.

6 Feb

Successful meeting with @campaignforleo. I assured the Taoiseach that his Govt & the Irish people have the unequivocal support of @Europarl_EN. We will never abandon Ireland. We will never prioritise the wishes of a minority from a departing Member State over an EU Member State.

7 Feb

Open discussion w/ @theresa_may. Backstop non negotiable. We’ll never abandon Ireland. I welcome @jeremycorbyn letter making a cross-party approach for the first time possible. From the hell we’re in today, there is at last hope of a heavenly solution even if it won’t be Paradise

12 Feb

Despite meetings w/ UK reps, incl PM May, Lidington & Barclay I’m yet to hear of a proposal to break Brexit deadlock. I ask myself what are these negotiations at a “crucial state” raised in the HoC? The way forward is cross-party, not kicking the can towards a disastrous no deal.

Letter(s) from Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker to Theresa May

Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker wrote a letter to Prime Minister Theresa May on 14 January 2019 to clarify various details in the Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the EU in an attempt to help the agreed deal throught the UK Parliament.

Details at

https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2019/01/14/joint-letter-of-president-tusk-and-president-juncker-to-theresa-may-prime-minister-of-the-united-kingdom/

(Local copy HERE)

The letter in full follows:

Thank you for your letter of 14 January 2019.

As you are well aware, we regret but respect the decision of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. We also consider that Brexit is a source of uncertainty and disruption. In these challenging times, we therefore share with you the determination to create as much certainty and clarity as possible for citizens and companies in a situation where a Member State leaves the European Union after more than four decades of closest economic and political integration. That is why the Withdrawal Agreement that you and the Leaders of the 27 EU Member States agreed after long negotiations is so important. It represents a fair compromise and aims to ensure an orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union, thereby limiting the negative consequences of Brexit. That is also why we wish to establish as close as possible a relationship with the United Kingdom in the future, building on the Political Declaration, which the Leaders of the 27 EU Member States agreed with you. It is also why we want negotiations to this effect to start as soon as possible after the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union.

As you know, we are not in a position to agree to anything that changes or is inconsistent with the Withdrawal Agreement, but against this background, and in order to facilitate the next steps of the process, we are happy to confirm, on behalf of the two EU Institutions we represent, our understanding of the following points within our respective fields of responsibility.

Remarks by President Donald Tusk – 25 November 2018

Remarks by President Donald Tusk after the special meeting of the European Council (Art. 50) on 25 November 2018.

Today, the European Council endorsed the Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community. On this basis, the European Council invited the Commission, the European Parliament and the Council to take the necessary steps to ensure that the agreement can enter into force on 30th March 2019, so as to provide for an orderly withdrawal.

The European Council approved the Political Declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The European Council restated the Union’s determination to have as close as possible a partnership with the United Kingdom in the future.

I quote this passage of today’s conclusions, as it contains the essence of our meeting.

“Ahead of us is the difficult process of ratification as well as further negotiations. But regardless of how it will all end, one thing is certain: we will remain friends until the end of days, and one day longer.”

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