Friday, July 12, 2019

New EU chief nominee says Brexit could be delayed - again

AFP, Brussels :
 Ursula von der Leyen, the nominee to be the next EU Commission president, said Wednesday that Brexit could be delayed for a third time, but warned London it must take responsiblity for "sorting out" its tortured departure from the bloc.
Von der Leyen said the divorce deal agreed with Prime Minister Theresa May but rejected by British lawmakers was a good one, signalling that under her leadership the European Commission will be no more willing to renegotiate than before.
Brexit has been delayed twice already because of British lawmakers' refusal to ratify the accord, but the two men vying to replace May both insist they will stick to the current departure date of October 31 come what may.
But von der Leyen, who said she still hoped Britain would change its mind and stay in the EU, said that if London needed more time, another postponement should be granted.
"If the United Kingdom needs more time, I think that's the right way to go," she told Green members of the European Parliament.
But she insisted there would be no change to the Irish "backstop" and warned Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt-the men aiming to replace May-that the "tone and attitude" of Brexit were vitally important to future relations between Britain and the EU.
Both have pledged to renegotiate the Brexit deal to get better terms or leave without one-but the EU has been adamant it will not reopen the text.
Three years after the shock referendum vote to quit the bloc, Brexit remains a highly divisive issue in the UK and von der Leyen said that while she still hoped Britain would stay, London must act to end the impasse.
"Though I still hope you remain, it is in our interests to have you sort things out. We have an agreement-which hasn't been signed on both sides-and we have the backstop," she said in response to a question from a British MEP at a hearing with centrist deputies at the European Parliament.
"I think it's a good deal but it is your responsibility and your noble task to sort things out," she added, in her first public comments on Brexit since being nominated as commission president.
Von der Leyen, nominated by EU national leaders last week to take over from Jean-Claude Juncker on November 1, the day after Britain is due to leave, was wooing MEPs ahead of a confirmation vote in the European Parliament next week.
Flamboyant former London mayor Johnson, the overwhelming favourite to win the race to succeed May, has said he will leave on October 31 with no deal if the EU will not improve the terms, particularly on the contentious "backstop" clause relating to the Irish border.