Today, MEPs debated the outcome of the December European Council, which celebrated the launch of closer defence cooperation but also highlighted significant divisions over migration and eurozone reform. In Article 50 format, it agreed on ‘sufficient progress’ in the Brexit talks, which meant that talks could progress to Phase 2 this year.
EU needs to combine ambition and pragmatism
On migration, President of the European Council Donald Tusk stated that everyone accepts the need for solidarity, but that there is currently no consensus on what that means in practice. He did however reveal that there was “unequivocal” support for establishing a permanent financing mechanism in the next multi-year EU budget to tackle illegal migration.
The ever-present issue of strengthening the eurozone was also addressed, with Tusk’s major goal being to strengthen the resilience of the monetary union. Under the Leader’s Agenda, the first concrete decisions on the eurozone and migration are expected in June 2018.
On defence cooperation, Tusk declared that “PESCO is the practical expression of common will to build a European defence. It shows that the EU moves forward when we combine ambition and pragmatism.”
“The European Union needs to be both visionary and pragmatic if it wishes to be successful.”
President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker highlighted some of achievements of the summit: “EU defence no longer a fiction, solidarity and responsibility instead of old arguments on migration, completing banking union and EMU reform, a fair Brexit deal.” He said he wants to work tirelessly to overcome the blockages.
UK can still reverse Brexit
On Brexit, Tusk mentioned how the EU was looking for more clarity on the UK’s vision of its future partnership with the EU. He had “no doubt” that EU27 unity would be maintained in every scenario.
Tusk even added that “our hearts are still open for you” should the UK decide to reverse Brexit. “Wasn’t it David Davis himself who said, if a democracy cannot change its mind, it ceases to be a democracy?” Juncker reiterated this, confirming that “our door still remains open, and I hope that will be heard in London.”
Chairman of the EPP Manfred Weber said that “If I was a British citizen I would be deeply worried about the priorities of my government.” He attacked the British Government by stating that the only thing it achieved was blue passports, which was a ‘scam’. “Please stop complaining, please deliver.”
Parliament Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstaft thought that the UK was confused over which of their policies actually originated from the EU, such as the credit card charge and the plastic bag bans.