EU Summit LIVE: Austrian leader wants Brexit TERMINATED as May arrives in Brussels

Posted on Dec 14 2017 - 10:22pm by admin

Ahead of a dinner in the Belgian capital, the Prime Minister will try to convince the EU27 leaders to agree to move on to future trade discussions in a bid to offer more certainty to businesses concerned about the implications of Brexit.

As she arrived in Brussels this afternoon, she said told reporters: “We’ve actually had 36 votes on the EU withdrawal bill and we’ve won 35 of those votes, with an average majority of 22. 

“So the bill is making good progress, we’re on course to deliver Brexit, we’re on course to deliver on the vote of the British people.”

Mrs May clinched a last-gasp Brexit agreement on Friday after a week of tense negotiations, which saw the Prime Minister backed into a corner as she tried to work out a deal agreeable to her DUP Westminster allies, the Irish government and EU chiefs.

Despite successfully agreeing a deal which meant “sufficient progress” had been made to allow Brexit talks to move on to the next phase, Mrs May received no respite from political infighting in Westminster as the Government suffered its first defeat over the EU Withdrawal Bill.

Tory rebels and opposition MPs backed an amendment giving them a legal guarantee of a vote on the final Brexit deal as Conservative party divisions widened even further.

The Prime Minister must now turn her attention to Brussels and try to convince the EU to begin talks next month on a roughly two-year transition period to ease Britain out after March 2019.

Donald Tusk, the European Council president, has said this morning that the second phase of Brexit talks will be the real test of the EU’s unity.

Scroll down for live updates from the EU Summit in Brussels

Theresa May EU summit angela merkel donald tuskAFP

Christian Kern has admitted he hopes Brexit can be reversed

5.45pm EUCO 28 conclusions approved unanimously

The conclusions drafted ahead of the summit have been approved by all parties – including the UK.

The agreement will move forward plans on defence, climate change and EU education across the bloc.

5.30pm Tusk hails Defence agreement while flanked by military officials

The EU has long maintained PESCO is not a step towards creating an EU army – however Donald Tusk chose to herald the “dream” of the defence arrangement while flanked by military officials in full uniform.

Taking to Twitter, one onlooker said: “For something that isn’t supposed to be an EU army, that looks suspiciously like… an EU army”

Mr Tusk went on to claim the PESCO agreement was “bad news” for “enemies” of the bloc.

He said: “Today the dream becomes reality. We are launching permanent structured cooperation, so-called PESCO.”

Arguing the “main dilemma was how to make PESCO both inclusive and ambitious”, he added: “It is good news for our allies and bad news for our enemies.”

4.00pm Nato Chief calls for STRONGER European Union amid PESCO talks

Nato’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has thrown his support behind the EU’s military defence initiative PESCO, arguing “together we are stronger”.

He said: “I welcome the initiative to strengthen European defence because I believe that it will be good for the European Union, for Europe and for NATO”

He added Nato would bind Britain to the bloc’s lunge for military capabilities.

Speaking ahead of talks with EU chiefs, he said: “Brexit will change Britain’s relationship to the European Union, but Brexit will not change the UK’s relationship to NATO. 

“The UK has, again and again, underlined that it will stay in NATO as a committed Ally, and the UK is very important for NATO because, next to the United States, the United Kingdom has the biggest defence budget and is providing key capabilities to NATO and to European security. 

“For me, Brexit just highlights the importance of stronger NATO-EU cooperation, and therefore I welcome that we have been able to lift NATO-EU cooperation up to a new level.”

3.45pm EU make ‘historic’ lunge towards PESCO – Mogherini

Vice President of the EU Commission Frederica Mogherini has heralded Pesco as an “historic” moment for the bloc – amid claims the defence partnership will lead to the formation of an EU army.

She said: “Let me say that today is a historic day, because exactly 10 years after the signing of the Lisbon Treaty we turn into reality one of the provisions of the Treaty: the Permanent Structured Cooperation [PESCO] was launched on Monday by the Foreign Ministers of 25 Member States.

This is a historic decision that turns the European Union into a credible security provider, globally. 

“We will now have 17 concrete projects on which the 25 Member States that have launched the Permanent Structured Cooperation will start to work, together with us.”

3.30pm: Leo Varadkar – Irish PM says trade will wait as talks put back to ‘a few months time’

Arriving at the EU summit, Irish figurehead Leo Varadkar said trade talks would have to wait while other matters were discussed with the EU after months of stalling from the bloc’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier 

The Taoiseach said he was “very happy with what was agreed last week“ but added “talk about the trading relationship” would wait until “a few months time”.

He went on to claim his government would not be “complacent” when it comes to Britain, adding “this is politics, we are going to need to stay very engaged in the months and years ahead, and very vigilant too.”

And asked about Mrs May’s Commons defeat yesterday he was sympathetic to the PM’s plight, saying “I don’t have a majority either and occasionally you lose votes.”

He added: “I have absolute faith and confidence in her that she speaks for the government of the UK and so long as that is the case, so long as she is Prime Minister we will deal with her as though she had an overall majority.”  

3.15pm Merkel and Macron agree Brexit concerns ‘largely resolved’ – inside source

Powerhouses of European leadership Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel have reportedly agreed Brexit is “largely dealt with” according to French sources.

The two are believed to have met on the sidelines of the summit ahead of talks to discuss Britain’s deal with the EU, and are not expecting to debate its contents as it passes through the bloc’s bureaucracy.

The two were seen smiling and joking with one another earlier as they greeted the press outside the summit, with Mr Macron telling the German Chancellor he would “wait for her” inside.

3.05pm European Parliament President demands no trickery on Brexit deal

European Parliament President Antonio Tajani has demanded the UK view the phase one agreement brokered by Mrs May last week as a binding document.

He hit out at claims from Brexit secretary David Davis that any agreement was simply a “statement of intent”, claiming EU officials would not stand for a “sleight of hand” agreement.

Mr Tajani said: ““In the light of the statements made on the other side of the Channel last weekend, we want to underline that the joint report is a binding document, not an exercise in sleight of hand to enable us to move on to the second phase.

“There can be no discussions on future relations if the exit agreement is not applied to the letter.

The fact that ‘sufficient progress’ has been made does not mean that we have resolved all the problems. We still have a lot of work to do.

“Parliament will pay particularly close attention to the measures proposed to genuinely safeguard the rights of citizens and to the procedure which will be introduced to guarantee their special status.

As regards future relations with the United Kingdom, there are red lines which are non-negotiable: integrity of the internal market, decision-making autonomy of the Union, and third-country status, with all that that implies. In this difficult second phase as well, unity will be our shield.”

3.00pm: Vincent Wood takes over live reporting

2.55pm: NATO boss talks Brexit

Jens Stoltenberg, the Nato secretary general, says Brexit won’t change Britain’s relationship with the alliance.

He said: “Brexit will change the U’s relationship with the EU, but it will not change the UK’s relationship with NATO.”

“The UK has underlined again and again that it will remain in NATO.

“For me Brexit just underlines the importance of strong EU-NATO cooperation and therefore we welcome being able to lift that cooperation up to a new level.”

2.45pm: Theresa May arrives in Brussels

After attending a Grenfell Tower memorial service this morning, Theresa May has joined her European counterparts in Brussels.

Speaking to reporters, she revealed she felt “disappointed” with the Commons defeat but maintained the Government remained “on course to deliver Brexit”.

Mrs May said: “We’ve actually had 36 votes on the EU withdrawal bill and we’ve won 35 of those votes, with an average majority of 22. 

“So the bill is making good progress, we’re on course to deliver Brexit, we’re on course to deliver on the vote of the British people.”


Theresa May is pleased with the ‘good progress’ of the EU Withdrawal Bill despite Commons defeat

2.30pm: Romania ‘satisfied’ with Brexit deal

Romanian president Klaus Iohannis is told reporters he is “satisfied” with the agreement reached between the UK and the EU last Friday, but hit out at suggestions the deal is nothing more than a gentlemen’s agreement.

He said: “It’s already a very technical document that we’re satisfied with, because the problem of Romanian citizens living in the UK is solved well. 

“The very thorny money problem was also practically negotiated, there are only some details left.”

In 2016 there were around 326,000 Romanians living in Britain, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

2.25pm: EU leaders ‘feeling sorry for May’

After Theresa May’s Commons defeat last night, BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg has suggested her European counterparts are sympathetic towards the PM.

She tweeted: “So far among leaders seems quite a lot of sympathy for May – they are all politicians after all who know what it’s like to be beaten, to fear losing, or to have to deal with grumpy parties.” 

2.20pm: Mark Rutte says it’s crunch time for May

Britain needs to “make up its mind” and decide what results it wants to achieve from the next phase of Brexit talks, according to the Dutch PM Mark Rutte.

Read more from’s Aurora Bosotti here.

2.10pm: Irish leader arrives

Leo Varadkar has spoken to reporters about the deal agreed with Theresa May last week and what that means for the Irish border.

He said: “I will stick to what was agreed last week, which was the word ‘maintain’ – that means keep the same, full alignment […] to the rules of the internal market and the customs union.

“That’s the line that was used in the document. I have no need to interpret it.”

Speaking to Sky News’ Faisal Islam, he said last night’s Commons defeat for Mrs May does not affect his view on her ability to deliver Brexit.

Mr Varadkar added: I have absolute confidence and trust in the British Government”.


Merkel and Macron greet each other as they arrive at the summit

1.50pm: Merkel and Macron mention migration 

Both the French president and the German chancellor have made brief comments about migration – one of the key issues set to be discussed at the summit.

Macron said: “We know solidarity is needed at the internal level, but also we need to move forward on a common asylum law, on a common external border policy and in particular an common policy towards sensitives world areas.”

Shortly afterwards, Merkel added: “We need solidarity on both the external and internal dimensions of migration, selective solidarity cannot work” – could this be a sly dig at Donald Tusk’s remarks about ineffective migrant quotas?

1.45pm: Outgoing Austrian chancellor admits hopes Brexit can be reversed

Christian Kern, who will shortly step down from his position to allow Sebastian Kurz to take the reins, admitted he hopes Brexit can be reversed.

He said: “I hope that it could be reversed because there will be a lot of big issues challenges that are not easy to solve, and there will be a lot of tensions in the domestic political area in Great Britain – so who knows.

“Now it’s very important to go to the next phase because if we don’t do that this would have huge confusions on the capital markets, on the whole European political scenery.”

1.30pm: ‘This is not just a summit about Brexit’ says Macron on arrival

The EU’s golden boy told reporters there’s no need for a collective EU response to Trump’s Jerusalem decision after he vowed France would not join the US in recognising the city as the new Israeli capital.

He said there is more to this summit than Brexit because “a lot of things were announced already.”


Emmanuel Macron speaks to reporters ahead of the European council summit

1.20pm: Dutch PM backs ‘formidable’ May 

Mark Rutte, the prime minister of the Netherlands, has backed Theresa May to deliver Brexit for Britain.

Asked if Mrs May still has what it takes after last night’s Commons defeat, he said: “Yes, I think so because I believe in UK society and in political circles there’s widespread support for a reasonable negotiated exit. Friday showed all of us we should not underestimate May, she’s a formidable politician.”

“I guess she’s holding her cards close to her heart at the moment, this is probably a wise negotiating tactic. It’s now for the UK to make up its mind and together collectively to see where we can get to.”

1.00pm: Lithuanian president plays down importance of Commons vote

Bad news for the Tory rebels who backed last night’s amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill.

Asked if the Commons vote changes anything, Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaitė said: “I don’t think so, we’re on the same track as it was agreed by both sides.”

12.40pm: Tusk’s migrant quota comments slammed by Greek opposition leader

Konstantinos Mitsotakis, the leader of Greek opposition party New Democracy, has hit out at Donald Tusk after the European Council president said refugee quotas were “ineffective”. 

Arriving at the EPP meeting, Mitsotakis said: “President Tusk’s statement regarding mandatory quotas is wrong. 

“It is wrong not only because the existing relocation scheme, albeit on a small scale, has worked, it is also wrong because our union has been based on the fundamental principle of solidarity and the only way to express that solidarity in practice is fair and proportional burden-sharing.”

12.25pm: Luxembourg PM drops Brexit bombshell

Wow. Luxembourg’s prime minister has just revealed some shocking news about the EU’s views on the UK Parliament’s “meaningful vote” on the Brexit deal.

Xavier Bettel has said that if the Brexit deal accepted by the British Government gets rejected by parliament, the EU will refuse to renegotiate.

He said: “I really believe that to think that Theresa May will negotiate something, we will negotiate something and then again Theresa May will go back to Westminster, is not good for the position of the negotiations.

“Westminster should trust that May will do the best for the UK.”

Does this mean the British Parliament could stop Britain from leaving the EU?

12.15pm: Angela Merkel arrives

Angela Merkel has arrived at the European People’s Party (EPP) summit in Brussels as she briefly escapes the domestic chaos prompted by her party’s inability to form a coalition government in Germany.

Sporting a yellow blazer, the German chancellor looked a bit glum as she arrived ahead of tonight’s European Council summit.


German chancellor Angela Merkel arrives in Brussels

12.10pm: Robert Fico backs Tusk’s remarks about ‘ineffective’ migrant quotas

After Donald Tusk came under fire for suggesting the EU’s migrant quotas were ineffective, Slovakian leader Robert Fico has backed the European Council president’s comments and said: “We reject the idea of quotas, they are ineffective. 

“This idea of borders has really divided the EU – €35million is a lot of money but if it is necessary we are willing to continue.

Earlier today Slovakia, along with Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, promised to support Italy’s bid to secure Europe’s external border to prevent another migrant crisis.

12.05pm: Luxembourg calls for “trust” in Brexit talks

Luxembourg’s PM Xavier Bettel has said talks between the EU and the UK should be “based on trust”.

Ahead of an ALDE party meeting, he told reporters: “I believe that May will negotiate something, we will negotiate something, we will agree on something and then again Theresa May will come back to Westminster.

“We should not punish the British citizens because they have decided to leave, but we should not punish the other countries too because one is leaving.”

Meanwhile a former Luxembourg PM, Jean-Claude Juncker, has arrived at the European People’s Party summit.

12.00pm: Czech PM demands an end to migro-mafia

Andrej Babis, the newly elected leader of the Czech Republic, has called on his European counterparts to make new efforts to tackle the human traffickers bringing people to Europe.

He said: “We have to solve this problem by fighting against this migro-mafia that is making billions of euros and is bringing these unhappy people to Europe by promising them a better future which isn’t going to happen.”

11.50am: Jean-Claude Juncker welcomes V4 commitment to securing Europe’s borders

Standing next to Hungarian PM Viktor Orban, President Juncker praised the Visegrad group’s offer of financiail support to the Rome-led project in Libya.

Referring to the V4, Juncker said: “Sometimes it seems that there are misunderstandings and we don’t know what each other is thinking.

“Today I’m happy that there are first results… This is the proof that the Visegrad 4 countries are fully aligned when it comes to solidarity with Italy and so on. So for once I am a happy man today.” 


Hungarian PM Viktor Orban and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker

11.45am: There’s no ‘human right’ to enter Europe

Slovakian PM Robert Fico has told reporters, when asked about the arrival of refugees from Libya, that there “is no human right to go the European Union.”

Quite a defensive stance given his discussions with other members of the Visegrad and Juncker.

11.30am: Donald Tusk arrives 

Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, has spoken to reporters as he arrived at the EU Summit.

Speaking about the Brexit deal and defence cooperation, he said: “Both these achievements demanded courage, realism but above all our unity.”

He said that on eurozone reform “the divide is, and sorry for this geographical simplification, … between North and South,” while on migration policy “this division is between East and West.”

He then tweeted: “Decisions on European defence/PESCO & Brexit show that only united can we perform the most difficult tasks.

“Divisions on migration and EMU are accompanied by emotions which make it hard to find common ground.

“We should work even more intensively to keep our unity.”

11.20am: Visegrad group commit funds to EU border protection

Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic have issued a statement confirming their commitment to the Italian-led project “aimed at protecting the borders in Libya” and will together offer £30.8million (€35million) to the plan.

The statement reads: “The financial effort and the readiness in the implementation of the Project is another demonstration of the [V4] of their conviction that the migratory pressure on Europe can only be efficiently tackled by ensuring the protection of external borders, while addressing the root causes.”

11.10am: Grenfell Tower memorial

Before Mrs May heads to Brussels she is due to attend a memorial service for the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire.

About 1,500 people are due to attend the service at St Paul’s Cathedral, including Princes William and Harry, the Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Charles, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Jeremy Corbyn.

The service is being held to give thanks to everyone who assisted on the ground at the time of the tragedy and since it – including the emergency services, the recovery team, the community, public support workers and volunteers.


The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry pay their respects to the Grenfell Fire victims

11.00am: Verhofstadt already causing trouble

Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Group (ALDE), has tweeted this morning to condemn the alleged bias coverage of anti-government protests in Poland which was broadcasted by a TV channel owned by Jarosław Kaczyński, who leads the ruling party.

Mr Verhofstadt, an outspoken Brexit critic, wrote on Twitter: “It looks like Kaczyński is afraid of the free press. He prefers to control the state media rather than allowing an open debate. Very worrisome that he is following the example of Putin & [Hungarian PM] Orbán. Poland deserves better.”

Will Poland react? 

10.50am: David Davis in the clear

Back in Westminster, Speaker John Bercow has told MPs he has judged that there was no contempt of parliament after David Davis was accused of misleading the House of Commons over the status of Brexit impact reports.

Mr Bercow said the Government could have been “considerably clearer” about the state of the reports, the evidence before him meant he did not believe the allegations of contempt would be pursued further.

The allegations emerged in response to a parliamentary motion which pushed the Government to release its analysis on 58 sectors of the economy to the Exiting the EU Select Committee.


David Davis has been cleared of contempt of parliament over Brexit impact reports

10.40am: Will Trump’s Jerusalem decision come up?

President Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the new Israeli capital last week prompted strong criticism from across the world as the US leader threatened to unravel years of work to establish peace in the Middle East.

The announcement prompted a return to violence in the region as Israeli troops reacted to Palestinian protests.

Although EU representative Federica Mogherini spoke of “full EU unity” against Trump’s decision and leaders including Macron and May have publicly condemned the move, it remains unclear whether EU leaders will make a formal statement on the subject today.

While the bloc often responds collectively to global outrages, such as North Korean missile launches, some EU members believe these issues should be dealt with on a national level.

10.25am: Whining about wine

Meanwhile in Westminster, Brexit Secretary David Davis is taking questions from MPs in the Commons.

Sir Edward Leigh, the Conservative MP for Gainsborough, wants to know whether Britain will receive a share of the 42,000 bottles of wine in the EU’s cellar when it quits the bloc.

Brexit minister Robin Walker says last week’s deal sets out how EU assets will be shared.

For more from Westminster, take a look at my colleague Mark Chandler’s story here.

10.15am: Juncker speaks to EU rebels on migration issues

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is set to meet with the leaders of Visegrad group (V4) to try to work out a solution to the ongoing dispute surrounding migrant quotas.

The V4, comprised of Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, have shunned EU attempts to get them to accept a mandatory refugee quota.

The group is expected to use today’s meeting, which will also be attended by Italy PM Paolo Gentiloni, to show the V4 is prepared to make a contribution to Rome’s work in Libya by helping to boost border security.

Brussels has threatened to sue Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic over their refusal to accept migrant quotas.


Merkel’s domestic woes have allowed Macron to take more control in Europe

10.00am: Who holds the power in Brussels?

The EU Summit comes at a particularly interesting time given the shifting power balance in Europe.

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor who has enjoyed almost unfettered dominance over the EU in recent years, has so far failed to form a coalition at home and is therefore heading to Brussels on the back-foot.

France appears to have usurped Germany as the EU’s main powerhouse, at least for the time being, and Emmanuel Macron arrives in Brussels in the knowledge that he can set the agenda for EU talks.

Ireland, meanwhile, has already been affected by Brexit talks after Theresa May, Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Northern Ireland’s DUP leader Arlene Foster finally broke the Irish border deadlock.

Mr Varadkar knows Ireland will be one of the member states most affected by Brexit and other EU countries are aware Dublin must be satisfied with the outcome of the summit for Brexit to move forward amid fears the delicate balance of peace could be threatened.

9.50am: Morning!

Welcome to today’s live coverage of all the events from the EU Summit in Brussels.

Theresa May is heading to the Belgian capital to meet with her EU counterparts after suffering a shocking defeat in the Commons last night.

She’ll be hoping to put the loss behind her as she tries to convince leaders from across Europe to move on to the second phase of Brexit talks.

Other topics likely to crop up during the two-day summit include eurozone reform, migration and defence cooperation as EU leaders come together for the last time this year.

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