UK PM’s current backstop arrangement ‘not basis for agreement’ – Sassoli

Flags flutter outside the Houses of Parliament, ahead of a Brexit vote, in London, Britain March 13, 2019. REUTERS/Tom Jacobs/Files

The UK Prime Minister’s alternatives to the backstop arrangement, ‘we do not regard at present as a basis which would allow us to reach an agreement,’ European Parliament President David Sassoli told MEPs.

Speaking during a Parliamentary plenary session yesterday, Sassoli explained that the current alternatives British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had been presenting, ‘constitute ideas rather than actual operable proposals that could work immediately.’

‘There are two alternatives to an agreement at the moment. We can have an extension all no deal. Parliament is of course open to the possibility of an extension if there aren’t specific objective reasons for it but requesting the extension is the prerogative of the United Kingdom. Regarding adjustment of a new deal I have made it extremely clear that that would be an extremely negative result. It would entail serious economic consequences for both sides. But in particular for the United Kingdom and its citizens no deal. Clearly however would be something the responsibility for which would be laid at the door of the British government,’ the EP President added.

Sassoli’s comments on Brexit came as the Parliament discussed urgent action to protect the EU’s funding programmes on tackling climate change and the avoidance of a No-Deal Brexit.

The plenary session was held just a week before the EU Summit.

MEPs said that they want to prevent further disruption to these funding programmes as well as condemning the ‘blame game’ surrounding the Brexit negotiations between the EU and UK.

In her closing plenary speech, the Finnish Minister for European Affairs Tytti Tuppurainen explained that Brexit would be a ‘pressing issue’ for the upcoming summit as well as adding that the current deal with the UK proposal was still ‘not operational’

The Minister said that No-Deal would have ‘significant consequences for citizens and businesses,’ but added that ‘if requested by the UK, an extension will be considered.’

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Alongside the EP President’s comments on Brexit, he also made light of his meeting with the out-going UK Speaker of the House John Bercow.

Sassoli said that both men agreed on the importance of the UK leaving the EU in an orderly way and that, ‘a disorderly exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union would be against the interests of British and European citizens.’

During their meeting the President said that, ‘the European Parliament would support a request from the UK government to extend the withdrawal period in order to have time for a general election or a referendum.’

Responding to the President’s announcement of his meeting with Bercow, the Brexit Party MEP Belinda de Lucy criticised the move as an interference in UK politics.

‘Let me make it clear,’ de Lucy opened, adding, ‘You have no right to go and speak with the Speaker of the House John Bercow.’

‘It shows that the EU is directly interfering in the UK’s domestic politics and exposes your intention to interfere to prevent Brexit from happening. Shame on you.’