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Debates
Wednesday, 3 April 2019 - Brussels Revised edition

11. The UK’s withdrawal from the EU (debate)
Video of the speeches
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  Presidente. – L'ordine del giorno reca la discussione sulle dichiarazioni del Consiglio e della Commissione sul recesso del Regno Unito dall'Unione europea (2019/2676(RSP)).

 
  
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  Melania Gabriela Ciot, President-in-Office of the Council. – Mr President, barely three weeks ago I was addressing you on the same topic, still hoping that some form of resolution would emerge from the parliamentary process in London. Unfortunately, as you know, the British parliament and government are still grappling with the issue of whether and how to exit the Union as we speak.

The European Council has expressed, among others, the willingness to adapt the political declaration, including in some of the directions consider during the indicative votes at the Commons.

The uncertainties and negative consequences therefore still remain as regards citizens, businesses and public authorities, with an already clear economic impact in terms of level of activity, investment and therefore jobs on both sides of the Channel.

At this very late stage, we are still determined to facilitate the conclusion of the withdrawal agreement. This should however not be to detriment of the solidarity among the Member States as regards, in particular, Ireland.

We therefore need to continue to take all possible steps in order to facilitate an orderly withdrawal. This is why in March the European Council considered a UK request for a short extension on the Article 50 period and decided on a two-track approach. Either the withdrawal agreement could not to be approved by 29 March and the extension would run until 12 April, and the UK would have to indicate a way forward, or until 22 May if the withdrawal agreement is approved.

As you know, the withdrawal agreement has not been approved in time so the operating withdrawal date is now 12 April. The UK will have to indicate a way forward, possibly leading to a further extension, which would again required a unanimity decision by the European Council. Should the UK indeed come back with a request for a significant expansion, it should not undermine the operations of the institutions and would therefore have to foresee the holding of the European elections.

On the EU side at the least, I am confident that our institutions will be able to complete the consent and conclusion process in a good time and therefore ensure a timely entry into force of the agreement, if the agreement is eventually approved in the House of Commons.

The withdrawal agreement continues to be the best solution for both sides, including in terms of protection of citizens’ rights. We are, however, under no illusion that should a no deal be the outcome of the process in London, it will have serious consequences, and we might know it at the last minute.

It is therefore all the more necessary to continue our preparation for all outcomes, including a no deal scenario. I’m so far encouraged by the significant progress made at the Union and national level, on preparedness and contingency. At this late stage in their legislative term, we should be pleased with a large number of contingency and preparedness related measures that our institutions have been able to agree, in spite of the heavy workload.

I am confident that with your cooperation it will be possible to complete the adoption of the remaining contingency measures in good time.

 
  
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  Jean-Claude Juncker, président de la Commission. – Monsieur le Président, Mesdames et Messieurs les députés, Madame la présidente du Conseil des ministres, ce qui s’est passé à Westminster ces derniers jours a renforcé ma conviction – qui n’a d’ailleurs jamais varié – que la meilleure voie à suivre est celle de la ratification de l’accord de retrait, qui a été approuvé par le gouvernement britannique et endossé en principe par ce Parlement, ainsi que par le Conseil européen.

Il y a dix jours, le Conseil européen a soumis la prorogation du délai de la négociation de l’article 50 jusqu’au 22 mai 2019 à une condition: l’approbation de l’accord de retrait à la Chambre des communes avant le 29 mars. Cela, hélas, n’a pas été le cas. Me référant à la déclaration de la Première ministre britannique la nuit dernière, je considère que nous disposons de quelques jours de plus, si le Royaume-Uni est en mesure d’approuver l’accord de retrait avec une majorité viable d’ici au 12 avril. Dans ce cas, l’Union européenne devrait également accepter une prorogation jusqu’au 22 mai. Le 12 avril est cependant la date ultime d’approbation possible. Si la Chambre des communes ne s’est pas prononcée avant cette date, aucune prolongation supplémentaire de courte durée ne sera possible. Après le 12 avril, nous risquons de mettre en danger le bon déroulement des élections au Parlement européen et de menacer le bon fonctionnement de l’Union européenne.

L’accord de retrait est et a toujours été un compromis. Un compromis équitable qui a permis à chacune des deux parties d’obtenir partiellement ce qu’elle recherchait, mais pas tout ce qu’elle recherchait. C’est à travers ce type de compromis que l’Union européenne, depuis le début, s’est bâtie. Ce sont de tels compromis qui ont permis au projet européen d’avancer, et c’est de ce type de compromis dont nous avons aussi besoin maintenant.

Une grande partie du débat à la Chambre des communes a porté sur les relations futures entre l’Union européenne et le Royaume-Uni. L’Union européenne est prête à ajouter une dose de flexibilité à la déclaration politique pour ouvrir la voie à un futur partenariat économique étroit entre l’Union et le Royaume-Uni. Nous sommes ouverts à tout un éventail d’options, allant d’un accord de libre-échange à des facilités douanières, à une union douanière, voire un espace économique européen. L’ouverture qui fut la nôtre depuis le début n’est nullement remise en cause et peut être davantage explicitée dans la déclaration politique.

Du côté de l’Union européenne, nous sommes prêts à entamer des discussions et des négociations sur notre partenariat futur dès que l’accord de retrait sera signé, avant même que l’encre ne soit sèche. L’équipe de négociation de la Commission est en place, mon ami Michel Barnier, notre négociateur en chef, est prêt et je voudrais pouvoir compter sur le même niveau de préparation du côté du Royaume-Uni. Que cela se passe ainsi ou non dépend entièrement du Royaume-Uni. Le Conseil européen a donné tout le temps et l’espace nécessaires à ce pays pour prendre sa décision.

Pour autant, je crois qu’un no deal le 12 avril à minuit est devenu un scénario de plus en plus vraisemblable. Ce n’est pas celui que je souhaite, mais j’ai fait en sorte, nous avons fait en sorte que l’Union européenne soit prête à y faire face. Nous nous y sommes préparés depuis décembre 2017. Nous avons toujours su que la logique de l’article 50 fait du no deal une option par défaut. Nous connaissons bien, depuis longtemps, l’équilibre des pouvoirs au sein de la Chambre des communes.

À ce jour, la Commission a publié 91 notes sur la préparation du Brexit, 32 actes non législatifs, 19 propositions législatives et 3 communications. Nous nous sommes rendus – les représentants de la Commission – dans chacun des 27 États membres pour les aider dans leurs préparatifs. Nous avons organisé 72 séminaires avec les États membres. Les mesures que les États membres et nous-mêmes avons prises atténueront les conséquences les plus rudes du choc d’un no deal. Elles offrent une véritable protection: elles garantiront que les citoyens de l’Union européenne et du Royaume-Uni pourront continuer à vivre et à travailler là où ils résident actuellement. Elles garantiront aussi que les avions pourront continuer à décoller et à atterrir. Nous avons adapté notre instrument financier pour pouvoir venir en aide au secteur de la pêche. Nous avons prévu les mécanismes qui permettent de poursuivre notre coopération policière et nous avons pris les mesures nécessaires pour atténuer les perturbations sur nos marchés financiers.

Les mesures que nous avons prises sont temporaires et unilatérales. Elles protégeront les intérêts clés de l’Union européenne, au moins jusqu’à la fin de l’année, mais les turbulences que subiront les citoyens, les entreprises et quasiment tous les secteurs seront évidemment inévitables.

Le Royaume-Uni, lui, sera plus touché que l’Union européenne, parce qu’un no deal géré ou négocié n’existe pas, pas plus qu’une période de transition d’un no deal. Quoi qu’il arrive, le Royaume-Uni devra toujours donner une réponse aux trois questions principales de la séparation. Premièrement, les droits des citoyens devront être respectés et protégés. Deuxièmement, le Royaume-Uni devra continuer à honorer les engagements financiers qu’il a pris en tant qu’État membre. Troisièmement, il faudra apporter une solution sur l’île d’Irlande, qui préserve à la fois la paix et le marché intérieur. Le Royaume-Uni doit respecter l’esprit et la lettre de l’accord du Vendredi saint.

Pas d’accord de retrait, cela ne signifie pas qu’il ne doit pas y avoir d’engagement. Les trois questions que je viens d’énumérer ne vont pas disparaître du jour au lendemain. Elles constitueront même des conditions strictes pour rebâtir la confiance et lancer les discussions sur l’avenir.

Monsieur le Président, la semaine prochaine, au Conseil européen, nous écouterons la Première ministre, Theresa May, nous exposer ses intentions et nous déciderons de la voie à suivre. Les principes qui guideront mon action sont limpides. Nous travaillerons, États membres, Parlement européen, jusqu’au dernier moment pour éviter un no deal. En fait, les seuls qui profiteraient du choc d’un no deal sont les adversaires d’un ordre mondial fondé sur des règles. Les seuls qui se verraient renforcés sont les populistes et les nationalistes.

(Applaudissements)

Les seuls qui se réjouiraient seront ceux qui veulent affaiblir à la fois l’Union européenne et, détrompez-vous, le Royaume-Uni. L’Union européenne n’expulsera aucun État membre. Personnellement, avec Michel, je ferai tout pour éviter une sortie désordonnée du Royaume-Uni et j’attends des dirigeants politiques de l’Union européenne à 27 et de ce Parlement, ainsi que du Royaume-Uni qu’ils fassent de même. C’est la première fois, dans ce Parlement, que je lis un discours parce que je crois que chaque mot a son importance.

 
  
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  Elmar Brok, im Namen der PPE-Fraktion. – Herr Präsident, Frau Ratspräsidentin, Herr Kommissionspräsident! Für meine Fraktion möchte ich erklären, dass wir der Analyse und den Schlussfolgerungen der Kommission zustimmen und sie in diesen Tagen und Wochen auch weiterhin unterstützen werden. Ich glaube, es ist völlig klar: Ein harter Brexit kann nur vermieden werden – ob wir jetzt noch eine kurze oder eine längere Verlängerung haben –, wenn ein Austrittsvertrag abgeschlossen und vom Unterhaus angenommen worden ist. Dieser Vertrag ist ausgehandelt. Unter jedem Szenario muss das eingehalten werden; daran kommt man nicht vorbei.

Der zweite Punkt ist: Wir möchten keinen harten Brexit, weil der Schaden dann für alle groß ist – für Großbritannien sehr, sehr viel mehr als für uns, aber auch für uns. Und deswegen ist der Weg, zwei bis vier Jahre Zeit zu haben, um über die zukünftigen Beziehungen zu verhandeln und zu einem Freihandelsvertrag, zu einer Zollunion – was alles die Briten möchten, wir sind bereit, da mitzumachen – wie auch zu einer Verständigung zur äußeren und inneren Sicherheit, zu Forschung und anderen Bereichen und insbesondere Erasmus zu kommen. Diese Möglichkeit muss in den nächsten Tagen eröffnet werden. Wenn der Austrittsvertrag nicht ratifiziert wird, wird es einen harten Brexit geben ohne eine Möglichkeit, über diese Dinge zu verhandeln, mit all den Konsequenzen, die damit verbunden sind.

Und ich möchte daran erinnern, dass die Europawahlen ein Stichtag sind, bis zu dem das erledigt sein muss. Ich halte es nicht für gut, dass das Vereinigte Königreich an den Europawahlen teilnimmt und in diesem Sommer bestimmte weitreichende Entscheidungen mit trifft und sich dann vom Acker macht. Das heißt, wenn man zu einer längeren Verschiebung kommt, dann muss das mit Bedingungen verbunden sein – längerfristig, nicht bis zum Oktober – dann machen wir dieses Theater mit den indicative votes im House of Commons jede Woche weiter –, sondern das muss dann länger sein, und dann muss damit eine Neuaufstellung der britischen Politik verbunden werden. Wenn Regierung und Parlament scheitern und nicht vorankommen, muss das Volk sprechen, muss es Neuwahlen geben, muss es ein Referendum geben. Dafür braucht man einige Zeit.

Ich würde es aber vorziehen – damit wie eine vernünftige, schnelle Lösung haben und uns darauf einstellen können –, dass jetzt vielleicht doch noch die Gespräche Corbyn/May gelingen. Wir haben immer gesagt: Redet endlich miteinander! Das haben wir vor zwei Jahren gesagt, wir haben das vor drei Wochen gesagt, das haben wir vor drei Monaten gesagt. Endlich reden sie miteinander, und da sollten Corbyn und May endlich Land vor Partei stellen und über die Grenzen der Parteien hinweg zu einem Deal für das Land und für Europa kommen.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MAIREAD McGUINNESS
Vice-President

 
  
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  Roberto Gualtieri, on behalf of the S&D Group. – Madam President, after two years of negotiations, three failed meaningful votes and two rounds of indicative votes, four days after the UK was meant to leave the EU, Theresa May has finally decided to sit down with the Leader of the Opposition to try to agree a plan on Brexit. One could say ‘better late than never’.

We now need to see if these talks will produce a credible way forward or if they are just another political exercise. We have always said that a closer EU—UK relationship would be beneficial for both sides and that, without touching the Withdrawal Agreement, the political declaration can be swiftly upgraded. So far, it has been Theresa May’s red lines that have made this impossible. We will see, this afternoon or the next day, if she is now really prepared to change these red lines and whether her party is prepared to follow her approach, whoever the next leader is.

Talks alone are not a solution until we see a credible and viable positive majority in the House of Commons before 12 April. This means that the threat of no deal has not disappeared. Politicians must act responsibly and do everything possible to avoid this scenario, which would be bad for everyone but a disaster for the UK. However, if this situation was to materialise, our group would work to ensure that the rights of all EU citizens were ringfenced in any circumstances. Citizens cannot pay the price for the failure of their politicians, and, if the UK Parliament continues to fail to deliver a solution, then the British people deserve the right to have their final say.

(Applause)

This is the reason why a longer extension cannot – and must not – be ruled out. If there is a request in this respect, it will have to be well motivated and the obligation of loyal cooperation should be defined and respected. But, in these circumstances, this request cannot be rejected. UK citizens are, and remain, European citizens, and their voice and their rights are not, and will not go, unheard in this House.

But why do we have this deadlock? Why do we have this constant difficulty to deliver a solution? And why are we now seeing in the opinion polls that at an increasing number of people are signing the petition to revoke Article 50? The truth is that Brexit is a tragic mistake. It is a lose—lose solution built on a mountain of lies. Because European citizenship is a concept full of substance, and losing it reduces, rather than increases, sovereignty. So what we can do, if Brexit takes place, is minimise this reduction of rights. But we will never say, in any circumstances, that Brexit is a positive solution. And whatever this Group can do to avoid this outcome, we will do it.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Jacqueline Foster, on behalf of the ECR Group. – Madam President, I’ll begin with a message to my friends and my colleagues in Westminster. I too am a Conservative, and we were not elected for our charm and our intellect. We are elected because we have the word ‘Conservative’ stamped next to our name. And to those remainers, who have done everything to overturn the result and have now left our party, I say: ‘bye bye’.

Power brings responsibility, and we can’t always have everything we want. Conscience and principles are a luxury we can’t always afford and are normally found on the benches opposite. Tough times demand tough choices, and that takes real courage. Regrettably, Mr Corbyn has been the problem and not the solution. He despises us and will do anything to gain power. He won’t argue with me on that. He’s already ditched free movement in an indicative vote, so I’m not holding my breath. But I live in hope. And to my loyal friends, the Unionists, I say: ‘He is not your friend’.

The Withdrawal Agreement is still on the table, and I truly believe it is the solution. So Messrs Barnier, Juncker and Tusk: a tweak could have been quite helpful. No more than a paragraph could have perhaps resolved the issue. But now, again, we’re having to ask for your patience so we can find a way forward.

Finally, this is not a game. The British people are demanding that we deliver on Brexit, not hold a European election. I think that’s a relief to colleagues in this House. So for goodness sake, I say to my colleagues in London, support the Prime Minister’s deal. It is truly the only way forward. The clock is ticking. Tick-tock.

 
  
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  Guy Verhofstadt, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Madam President, first of all, I want to say to Ms Foster that I’m not a big fan of Jeremy Corbyn, but saying that it is Jeremy Corbyn who is the problem here – well, everybody knows that the problem is the division inside the Conservative Party.

(Applause)

That is the problem. Everybody knows that and, moreover, we are all following every day the voting inside the House of Commons. I can tell you that the sessions of the House of Commons have become more popular in Europe even than the matches in the Premier League. The only difference is – well, I can tell you – it’s always a draw there in the House of Commons, while there are more goals scored, fortunately, I should say, mainly by some players, in the Premier League.

So let’s be very sincere with each other. Let’s hope that these cross-party negotiations that start today give a solution in the coming days. We, from all sides, have said it, we are open to change the political declaration to make that possible – customs union, free trade arrangement, a common market 2.0, maybe something else – we are open to do so. But it has been done before 12 April, and before 12 April, Ms Foster, there has to be a meaningful vote in the House of Commons, so that we have a basis to do so. Secondly, we also need a roadmap so that we can be sure that everything is implemented in the secondary legislation in Britain by and before 22 May. My last remark that I want to make: I know that a number of colleagues are thinking, ‘ah, maybe a long extension’. Don’t be under any illusions. The fact that we should create a situation where Britain is with one foot inside the Union and with one foot outside the Union is a tragedy. It is bad for the European Union. Can you imagine a little bit the new prime minister of Great Britain, Mr Johnson or Mr Gove, both the architects of the Brexit disaster, having the keys in their hands to the future of the European Union? I cannot think about that happening. It will be a disaster for the European Union and it’s not the way to go forward.

Finally I think – and that is what my colleague Mr Gualtieri said – the only advantage of Brexit, Mr Gualtieri, is in fact the following: people can see for themselves now what it means when populists and nationalists take power in a country and make an image of a country and a future that does not exist in that country.

(Applause)

It’s a good lesson for the European elections.

 
  
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  Gabriele Zimmer, im Namen der GUE/NGL-Fraktion. – Frau Präsidentin, meine Damen und Herren! Wie immer ist das Verfallsdatum der Erklärung von Theresa May ziemlich unklar. Wir wissen nicht, was heute Abend oder heute Nacht rauskommt, und wir wissen nicht, ob – wenn Corbyn und Theresa May sich einigen – dann das Parlament ihnen tatsächlich auch folgen wird, weil wir nicht wissen, wie stark überhaupt noch die Gefolgschaft – insbesondere bei den Tories – ist. Soviel auch zu Frau Foster, zu ihren Angriffen gegen Labour.

Das No-Deal-Szenario ist nach wie vor auf dem Tisch. Sollten die Abgeordneten zu Beginn der kommenden Woche der möglichen Einigung zwischen Corbyn und May nicht folgen, wird keine Zeit mehr sein, tatsächlich noch ein Verfahren auszuarbeiten, eine Begründung auszuarbeiten, warum man eine längere Verlängerung haben will. Dann wird es aus meiner Sicht zu einem Austritt am 12. April ohne Deal kommen. Und für dieses No-Deal-Szenario ergeben sich eine ganze Reihe von Gefahren, und wir fordern deshalb auch als Fraktion, dass in den Verhandlungen danach über die künftigen Beziehungen klar wird, dass wir die Bürgerrechte schützen werden, dass wir ring-fencing betreiben und zwar sowohl für die Bürger in UK als auch für die Bürger in der EU.

Eng damit verbunden ist, dass mit einem solchen No-Deal-Verfahren das Good Friday Agreement aufs Äußerste gefährdet ist. Es ist die Rede davon, dann zwei Grenzen zu ziehen: eine Seegrenze und eine Landgrenze. Ich glaube, das ist völlig klar: Meine Fraktion wird keinen neuen Grenzen, die wir hier in der Europäischen Union – in Europa – ziehen, jemals zustimmen können.

Und ich möchte dazu aber auch klar sagen: Was wir bisher erlebt haben, über die letzten Monate, das erinnert mehr an ein Casino als an etwas anderes. Wir sind über das Pokern beim Roulette gelandet, und jetzt sind wir beim russischen Roulette. Und das ist aus meiner Sicht eine riesige Gefahr, vor der wir stehen. Deshalb fordere ich alle auf, alles dafür zu tun, dass wir mit einem Deal aus der ganzen Geschichte herauskommen, und zwar bis zum 12. April, dass wir diese Entscheidung klar haben.

Ein Wort noch zu Claude Moraes: Ich finde es nicht in Ordnung, und ich möchte im Namen meiner Fraktion auch klar dagegen protestieren, dass mitten in einem Trilogverfahren ein britischer Abgeordneter, der über viele Jahre an der Spitze des LIBE-Ausschusses steht und der hervorragende Arbeit geleistet hat, wegen des Einspruchs aus dem Rat und insbesondere von spanischen Abgeordneten hier im Europäischen Parlament nach der 6. Trilogverhandlung aus den Verhandlungen herausgenommen wird. Ich möchte Claude Moraes für seine Arbeit, die er geleistet hat, danken. Er genießt höchsten Respekt von unserer Seite.

 
  
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  Philippe Lamberts, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – Madam President: no. Three times ‘no’ to the Withdrawal Agreement. ‘No’ to a no-deal Brexit. ‘No’ to an outright revocation of Brexit. ‘No’ to a Customs Union. ‘No’ to participation in the single market. ‘No’ to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. ‘No’ to the free circulation of people.

The House of Commons increasingly sounds like Monty Python’s Knights of Ni – sorry, Knights of No. You might think that, short of the ability or will to make up their minds on what they want, they will hand over the decision to their constituents on that crucial matter that Brexit is. But there again, the answer is ‘no’. At this stage, the audience is left wondering whether Theresa May will find a shrubbery that will please the Knights of No.

One might argue that one’s place in history can be secured by saying ‘no’. So it was in 1940 when the United Kingdom stood up against Nazism. But the fact is that the greatness of the United Kingdom has been primarily built on positive choices, such as when the United Kingdom decided to be a founding member of the multilateral order we know today: the United Nations, NATO, World Trade Organization; that when it decided to join the European Union, when it decided to support the enlargement of the European Union, this is when the UK was at its best. And so it goes for any great achievement of humankind. The British Parliament now has to rise to the challenge and say ‘yes’ to a way forward.

Theresa May’s strategy of running down the clock has run its course. She waited until the 11th hour to reach out to the main opposition party. We can only guess whether a majority will be found for a future relationship that will include a customs union. But I’d like to remind everyone that this outcome presupposes the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement. There is no way round this. Neither is there one around the fact that a no-deal Brexit is what will happen by default unless a positive alternative can be adopted. But the choice is not just between orderly and disorderly Brexit. Now that what Brexit means is becoming apparent, one can realise it is a negative-sum game for all players involved. Let it be known that the door remains open for the UK to remain a full member of the EU. With my British Green and European Free Alliance friends, we believe that the heart of Europe is where the United Kingdom belongs. On a daily basis, we see the positive contributions that your country has made to the EU and, likewise, millions of UK citizens see the positive contributions the EU has made to their own country. As Democrats, we believe that making such a momentous choice for the country should be left to the people. Now is the time to put country above party politics.

 
  
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  Patrick O’Flynn, on behalf of the EFDD Group. – Madam President, despite Mr Juncker’s determination to give a punishment beating to the United Kingdom, the current impasse is not exclusively his fault. It has been your misfortune almost as much as ours to be dealing with the worst prime minister in British history, someone who stands for nothing and can deliver nothing. When someone is so passive about having sand kicked in their face, it takes a restrained kind of bully to walk off the beach. We know from its dealings with Greece and others that the Commission is not a restrained kind of bully.

But you would be making a terrible mistake to assume that Mrs May is representative of the British people. You have men like Tony Blair whispering in your ear about the dream of the British suddenly embracing your project of integration. Do not believe it. We are a different kind of European nation. We have a different history, a different geography and different modern networks too. You should ask why Blair, in his pomp, could not risk a referendum on euro membership. You should ask why Brown could not risk a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty and you should ask why Cameron, when he was forced to hold a referendum on membership, lost it to the greatest number of British people ever to vote for anything.

Finally, you should ask yourselves why – after being threatened with no food, no water, no medicines and no jobs – the latest polls show that more British people wish to leave the EU with no deal next Friday than to remain. Once you’ve asked these questions then you should look ahead. You should imagine how Mrs May’s successor would seek to rebuild shattered Tory support before the next general election if we have not left. He or she will be leading a party whose potential support is overwhelmingly formed of leave voters. Do not expect consistency from the Conservatives, by the way. The Tooting Popular Marxist Front will not last.

Instead, the answer is obvious, Guy Verhofstadt is right. The successor will seek to rebuild support by making your lives a misery through vetoes and political sabotage, by rejecting every proposed development of your project. So, reject another extension, resolve that Brexit will happen on WTO terms next Friday, and then negotiate constructively to tie up the loose ends after that. Do this and we can still be your best customer, but lock us in and we will be your worst nightmare.

 
  
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  Gerard Batten, on behalf of the ENF Group. – Madam President, every time we think that things can’t get worse, they do. Every time Mrs May gets up to speak, we think that she may say something to resolve the situation. Instead, she just sinks lower into tragedy and farce. Now she’s handing the Brexit hot potato to Jeremy Corbyn, and apparently the European Union will decide whether we take part in the European elections or not.

Has the whole Brexit process fiasco been an elaborate conspiracy between Mrs May and the EU, or is it just due to her monumental incompetence? Either way, we have to hand it to you, Mr Juncker and Mr Barnier. You have done what Philip of Spain, what Napoleon, what Kaiser Wilhelm and Hitler couldn’t do: you have brought Britain to its knees, without firing a single shot. But you could not have done any of these things without the connivance of the traitors, quislings and collaborators in the British Parliament and British establishment. As Seneca said, a nation cannot survive treason from within – and treason it is. Mrs May and the Tories planned to betray Brexit from the start. They have betrayed it by means of delaying and impeding, with the intention of finally overturning it altogether and setting aside the decision of the referendum.

Many of the 17.4 million people in the UK who voted Leave now believe that their vote is pointless. But Britain is still nominally a democracy, and the vote is the only weapon that ordinary people have. Those 17.4 million people can still vote for Brexit, and they can make a start on 2 May when the UK Independence Party is fielding candidates up and down the country in the English and Welsh local elections.

Mr Juncker, if I heard you correctly, you said that there will be no extension to Article 50 beyond 12 April, and if there is no agreement on the withdrawal deal, then we leave by default and go on to WTO terms. I think that’s one of the few things you’ve said I actually agree with. Good: let’s bring it on. But if Britain is forced to take part in the European elections on 23 May, then UKIP will field a full complement of candidates in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. There will be no deals or alliances with opportunist parties and their daily allowance-grabbing candidates. UKIP will stand on the policy of unilateral and unconditional withdrawal. No compromises and no surrender. And UKIP will carry forward that policy into the next general election. UKIP will accept no agreement on any other terms. We stand for a complete and total exit from the European Union. The struggle to set Britain free from the European Union continues. UKIP leads that struggle. Vote UKIP. Vote Brexit.

 
  
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  President. – Mr Smith, do you want to make a point? I won’t allow questions at all in this session. No blue cards.

 
  
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  Alyn Smith (Verts/ALE). – Madam President, Rule 11, paragraph 3 of our Rules of Procedure to make a point of order about what was a flatly disgraceful speech from Mr Batten right there.

(Applause)

He does not speak for the people of the United Kingdom, he barely speaks for his own party, such as it still exists. And to use that sort of rhetoric in this house of democracy is utterly shameful. Can I suggest that you and the Presidency think whether or not this House should continue to give a platform to these wreckers for their poison?

 
  
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  President. – Excuse me Mr Batten, I have the microphone and I will speak, and then I may allow you to speak.

Can I say that I will definitely bring your issue to the President. I was also concerned about the use of another term: punishment beating. I find that a difficult term in the context of my own country.

Sir, do you have a point?

(Applause)

 
  
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  Gerard Batten (ENF). – Madam President, this gentleman represents a party which claims it wants independence and yet it’s happy to be subservient to the European Union. By all means, ban me and watch my vote go up in the United Kingdom.

 
  
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  Mike Hookem (NI). – Madam President, if Messrs Juncker, Tusk and Barnier think they are dealing with a British prime minister, then I have news for them. Theresa May might still have the title, but she’s nothing more than a prime ministerial ghost squatting in Number 10, awaiting the political coup de grâce from a party that despises her. While many of you just want the whole Brexit debacle to be over, to get on with your building of a European superstate in peace, Mrs May is clinging to your enterprise like a dog on a postman’s leg. Not only is Mrs May ignoring her party and the electorate in trying to force a vassal state deal on Britain, she’s also negotiated her way into enacting the Remain-minded policies of the Labour opposition.

Now bearing in mind the attitude of the British people to the EU project to date – and imagine what it would be like after a complete Brexit betrayal – shall I call on you all to do Britain and the EU project a favour? Give May the coup de grâce the Conservatives are too weak to deliver, and let the UK leave on 12 April.

 
  
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  Danuta Maria Hübner (PPE). – Madam President, I still have to make one comment because what also shocked me in Mr Batten’s statement was that he called the UK ‘nominally a democracy’. I would disagree. I think it is a democracy in reality.

Let me start, however, on a positive note, welcoming rather encouraging reports on the launching of the settled status scheme in the UK, but I think that the challenge today is somewhere else. For 129 days we have had a withdrawal deal on the table and we now have a European Council decision regarding extension until 12 April. So it is dramatically late, but not too late, and there is still a chance to avoid no deal by accident. But that requires the UK to set a workable plan with a clear end result.

It is the last chance for Prime Minister May to establish, with the leader of the Labour Party, a common approach, based on what has been lacking so far, which is trust – a common approach that would allow the UK to move forward and avoid no deal. This is crucial because the future of citizens is at stake. All the concerns we see coming out of the House of Commons relate to the Political Declaration, and we are ready to look at different options to accommodate British worries about the future.

Let me finish by underlining once more that no deal is in nobody’s interests, no deal is not what the European Union has striven for and no deal is not what the United Kingdom has committed to achieve.

 
  
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  Richard Corbett (S&D). – Madam President, does Mrs May really wish to make a deal with Jeremy Corbyn? It would involve her abandoning everything she has said up to now about customs union, Single Market: abandoning every red line she laid down. If she doesn’t, the House of Commons will continue to reject her deal and to want to avoid a no—deal scenario. But it’s significant that, in the indicative votes that took place in the House of Commons, the one that gained the highest number of votes was the proposal to have a confirmatory referendum putting it back to the people. And that’s not surprising, because look at public opinion in Britain; look at the swings in the opinion polls; look at the numbers of people who’ve signed a petition to simply revoke Article 50. There is growing support for reversing this historic mistake, and on 10 April it would be folly if the European Council decided that it prefers to end this without a deal and without further ado, just at the point when we can change this course of action.

 
  
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  Hans-Olaf Henkel (ECR). – Madam President, earlier we heard Mr Farage, Mr Batten, Mr O’Flynn and Mr Hookem, and I think they are experts in London bashing, as much as Mr Verhofstadt is.

President Juncker, last week you accused Britain’s ex-Prime Minister of being one of the biggest destroyers in recent history. While I agree that Brexit is indeed a catastrophe for both Britain and the European Union, I ask myself: how can you put Mr Cameron in the same gallery as other real destroyers of history in Europe? I think I know the reason. I think you want to deflect from your own role in Brexit. Where the Lisbon Treaty called for competition, you advocated the opposite: harmonisation. Where the Treaty called for subsidiarity, your Commission constantly pushed for more power to Brussels. And while Britain joined a football club, you decided to play hockey. It was your policies which forced David Cameron to call for a referendum in the first place, and it was your refusal to grant him more autonomy on immigration matters which contributed ...

(Interjection from the President)

Mr Cameron is not one of the biggest destroyers in recent history, but your insult of David Cameron must be one of the biggest smokescreens ever produced by a politician in recent history. Avoid becoming the President who lost Britain. Give Mrs May an extension without any conditions so we maintain a chance that they stay in the European Union.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Catherine Bearder (ALDE). – Madam President, I was born in 1949. Europe was in chaos, a mess left by a war of hate and racism. Thankfully, visionary, clear-thinking people worked to build a safe, secure, united and free Europe, building a union based on values and principles that protect its citizens, with freedoms that were just a dream in 1949. We all stand on the shoulders of those architects: Schuman, Monnet, Adenauer, Churchill, and our own Simone Veil, and so many others.

This union is a gem. It sets the benchmark for the world on trade standards, environmental protection and human rights. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best yet. We must all defend it. And this Chamber is the shining example of cooperation and tolerance. I wish Westminster could follow our example. As the UK turns its back on the EU, descending into chaos and confusion, whatever the outcome, it will be bad for Britain.

So I look to future generations, including my own sons, born as European citizens, with hard-won rights, into a peaceful continent. It is the young who must rebuild the UK’s trust with the EU, bringing Britain back to its rightful place with its closest neighbours.

On a personal note, I thank you for the tolerance you have all shown to us Brits as we have driven you to the end of your patience. Thanks too for the friendship and support to me and others with so many in this House as we’ve been fighting to stay with you.

You will remain our friends.

 
  
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  President. – Madam Bearder, I really will have to interrupt.

Not only that, colleagues, I broke the gavel, so I will have a real problem keeping time. But on a very serious note, we have a real difficulty. I’m going to announce now that there is no catch-the-eye possible at all, with my apologies to colleagues who wanted to make an intervention, and I ask the next speakers to please adhere to time.

 
  
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  Martina Anderson (GUE/NGL). – Madam President, what the British Government could not do to Ireland during the conflict, Member States, the 27 of you must not even contemplate doing during peace. Our peace process is too important, so don’t even try to contemplate to reinforce partition by hardening the border in Ireland. And as for erecting two borders, the solution is to remove borders, not to add borders.

Of course the EU needs to protect its single market. However, the EU must also uphold its treaty obligation to do no damage to an international agreement – the Good Friday Agreement. There is a democratically endorsed way for the EU to do both, yet you are ignoring the solution.

If you think by constructing two borders in Ireland you will encourage the British back to the negotiation table after a crash you know little about the British establishment, because it doesn’t give a hoot about the people of Ireland. It never has and it never will. So, if in the event of a crash, you choose not to advance our democratic pathway back into the EU, then at least do no bloody harm.

 
  
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  Ian Hudghton (Verts/ALE). – Madam President, a little over 20 years ago in this Chamber I made my first plenary speech as an SNP member – Scotland’s party of independence – and I came here hoping that I would play a part in Scotland’s transition to normality as an independent country. That was not to be, and look where we are now. I could never have imagined 20 years ago, that I’d be trapped in this idiotic Westminster chaos of Brexit.

Voters in Scotland voted to remain. Every single local authority area in Scotland voted by majority to remain, and yet Westminster continues to ignore Scotland’s interests in this process. And to date, we have seen the London government and Parliament failing even to make a negotiated settlement amongst themselves, let alone an international one.

Scotland can and must do better, and I think that our recent experience in the last two or three years has amply illustrated the argument for independence for Scotland, so that we, as a normal country, can make our own arrangements with our neighbours and the rest of the world.

 
  
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  Paulo Rangel (PPE). – Senhor Presidente, Caro Presidente da Comissão, Senhor Michel Barnier, Presidência, o primeiro ponto que queria que ficasse claro é que ninguém quer nem deseja que o Reino Unido saia. Foi uma decisão do Reino Unido e se ele a quiser revogar será bem-vinda. Mas, se não a quiser revogar, será também respeitada. O Reino Unido faz falta à União Europeia e falo de um país atlântico que sabe que a visão atlântica do Reino Unido faz falta.

Mas choca-me imenso, choca-me muito, que a nossa discussão aqui seja essencialmente geopolítica, sobre soluções políticas. Ninguém fala sobre os cidadãos e as empresas que estão neste momento a sofrer a maior crise de incerteza e de instabilidade. É isso que eu peço, quer à Comissão, quer ao Conselho, quer ao Parlamento: que se fixem no interesse dos cidadãos e das empresas.

Temos de pensar num plano de contingência para os próximos dias, temos de pensar naqueles que em casa estão a sofrer. São milhões e milhões de cidadãos europeus que neste momento sofrem com esta confusão criada pelo Reino Unido.

 
  
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  Seb Dance (S&D). – Mr President, I would say to Ms Foster that that was quite some speech. You say ‘goodbye to remainers’. Well, given Brexit has destroyed the Conservative Party, fairly soon we’ll be able to say ‘goodbye and good riddance to the Conservative Party’, and I look forward to that day.

We cannot rely on a decision that’s made in a panic. If the deal is passed in a panic, if some other concoction is passed in a panic, it is not sustainable. I understand we want a resolution to this, I want that no less than anyone else, but please, we may need more time. The only sustainable way forward is to put whatever comes out of this process to a vote of the people, because it is nothing like what was offered in 2016. And don’t be afraid of giving us more time if we need a longer extension, Mr Verhofstadt and others, don’t judge us by the people over there who rail against the benefits of the European Union.

Judge my country by the plurality of people who are in it: the pro-Europeans, the millions who have signed the petition to revoke Article 50, the millions who have taken to the streets to defend the values of this place. We are the true Britain, we defend Europe, we defend its values and we’re not going anywhere. Don’t be afraid of us. Welcome us and give us the time we need.

 
  
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  Julie Girling (PPE). – Madam President, thank you to Mr Dance because I can follow very neatly on from what he said and I can drop some of what I was going to say. I want to appeal to Members of this Parliament directly, as fellow parliamentarians. We uniquely represent the people of Europe, the citizens of Europe and, as we stand at this moment, 60-odd million of them still reside in the UK. We are still members of the European Union. We have not left yet. We have not got an agreement to leave yet. Please, I ask you to remember that because for us it’s really important that you give us the opportunity to redress the damage that has been done, and the only way that can happen is by giving us a long extension and us fighting the European elections. Yes, Mrs May is terrified of fighting the European elections and so is every other Westminster politician that you will see on the TV and so are my friends over here. They know that, unlike their rhetoric of dangling the bogeyman of Mr Farage coming back, actually, it’s going to be quite tricky for them, and you’re going to return, if we have the European elections, to a very strong pro-European contingent from the UK. Give us that opportunity. Don’t jump off the cliff.

 
  
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  Jean-Claude Juncker, Präsident der Kommission. – Frau Präsidentin! Eigentlich habe ich keine Lust mehr, mich zu diesem Thema Brexit noch weiter zu äußern. Aber Herr Henkel hat einiges hier vorgebracht, dem ich strikt widersprechen muss. Denn das, was er sagt, stimmt nicht. Nicht Juncker oder die Kommission hat Großbritannien dazu gezwungen, ein Referendum abzuhalten. Das war Herr Cameron. Herr Cameron hat das getan, obwohl wir – Tusk und ich – uns mit ihm auf ein Austrittsabkommen geeinigt hatten. Wir haben dieses Austrittsabkommen verteidigt; Herr Cameron nicht, mit keinem Wort. Das, was wir nächtelang durchverhandelt haben, wurde von der britischen Regierung, von Herrn Cameron, während der Referendumskampagne mit keinem einzigen Wort erwähnt. Und in diesem Abkommen standen große Zugeständnisse, was die Arbeitnehmerfreizügigkeit anbelangt. Sie müssen lesen, was abgemacht wurde, und zuhören hier! Sie haben Herrn Farage zitiert – er hat heute überhaupt nicht geredet.

Also ich finde das unredlich, was Sie hier gemacht haben. Wieso können Sie die Kommission eigentlich beschuldigen, dass wir in Sachen Harmonisierung übertrieben hätten? Wir haben Hunderte Texte von der Tagesordnung genommen, nur 23 neue Initiativen vorgeschlagen – im Direktvergleich mit der Vorgängerkommission 100 Initiativen pro Jahr weniger.

Also, ich habe mir erlaubt, Ihnen zu antworten, weil Sie nicht mehr hier bleiben werden.

 
  
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  Melania Gabriela Ciot, President-in-Office of the Council. – Madam President, we have to remain confident and patient, even if there is some delay. The parliamentary process in the UK will lead to some clarity on the next steps in our future relationship with the UK, with or without a withdrawal agreement.

Depending on the outcome, we will have to address the implementation of the agreement on which we will have to exert a rigorous oversight so that it delivers in the interest of citizens and businesses, or to engage in negotiations for a future relationship with the UK, even in the case of a no-deal scenario, but with clear pre-conditions. We will therefore count on your cooperation at all the stages of these processes in the years to come.

 
  
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  President. – The debate is closed.

(The sitting was suspended briefly)

Written statements (Rule 162)

 
  
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  Alfred Sant (S&D), in writing. – The crisis in coming to a ‘final’ settlement over Brexit weighs most heavily on Britain. The institutions there have not coped successfully with the challenge of addressing how Brexit, once endorsed by the British people, should be defined and then how negotiations about it should be conducted. However, it is illusory to believe that the current fiasco – and worse any diplomatic crash that could result – will impact mostly on the UK alone.

The fiasco, and potentially worse, could create deep fissures within the Union itself. These would reinforce existing levels of distrust, not least between east and west. Moreover, further ripple effects could ensue in the same direction, not least about issues of financing, cohesion and freedom of movement. Clearly, the framework provided by Article 50 for withdrawal from the Union is not fit for purpose, as I have argued right from the start of the Brexit talks. It seems to me that, with their emphasis on keeping a unified position, EU leaders may be misjudging the need to remain flexible in sticking to their red lines of border integrity, the sanctity of free movement rules and the implications of negotiating time-frames.

 
  
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  Miguel Viegas (GUE/NGL), por escrito. – Na decisão do povo britânico está presente um profundo sentimento de rejeição da União Europeia e das suas políticas que agridem os direitos e as aspirações dos trabalhadores e dos diferentes povos da Europa e aumentam as desigualdades e assimetrias, e que desrespeitam a soberania. Ao Governo português e à União Europeia pede-se que intervenham resolutamente, seja junto das autoridades do Reino Unido para assegurar a defesa dos direitos dos mais de 300 mil cidadãos portugueses a viver e trabalhar no país, como o direito de residência, igualdade de tratamento, acesso aos serviços públicos de cuidados de saúde e de educação, às prestações de segurança social, ao reagrupamento familiar, o reconhecimento mútuo das habilitações académicas e das qualificações profissionais.

 
  
  

PRESIDENZA DELL'ON. ANTONIO TAJANI
Presidente

 
Last updated: 26 June 2019Legal notice