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MNI EXCLUSIVE: MEPs Hope Brexit Progress Vote To Spur UK Govt

MNI (London)
By Tara Oakes
     BRUSSELS (MNI) - A resolution backed by the European Parliament stating
that sufficient progress had not yet been made in Brexit talks was intended as a
spur for the UK government to get its act together, leading MEPs told MNI
     MEPs interviewed by MNI said that the aim of vote was not to put a brake on
second-round talks, but rather to make British negotiators rise to the challenge
of wrapping up the sufficient progress aspects of the withdrawal talks next
     "We can use this resolution as a kind of incentive to mobilise our British
friends and to have the last week really well used, to make it possible for
Michel Barnier to really say that there is sufficient progress on the most
important strands of the negotiation," MEP Danuta Huebner, a member of the
Brexit steering committee who drafted the resolution, told MNI.
     "It was a political statement to also facilitate the whole process of
moving to the second phase of the negotiation process -- and to do it early
enough to provide incentives to mobilise the Brits," she added.
     The vote passed overwhelmingly, with 557 MEPs voting for the motion, 92
against and 29 abstentions.
     This means the Parliament, who will eventually have to ratify any Brexit
deal, do not yet believe that any talks can yet begin on a future relationship
before more progress is made on the messy divorce issues of Ireland, citizens'
rights and the financial settlement.
     However, the vote is not binding on the European Council, who, along with
the Commission, will make the final decision on progress.
     Barnier, the European Commission's designated chief negotiator, has to
advise after the next round of talks whether the three key issues have hit the
elusive sufficient progress mark. The European Council will then decide later in
October whether parallel talks on transition and future relationship can be
     Acting leader of Labour MEPs in the parliament, Richard Corbett, echoed
Huebner's comments that the timing of the vote was intended to increase the heat
on the UK government.
     "It's flagging up -- as is everybody, frankly -- that so far there is
insufficient progress," Corbett noted.
     "But it's got in there the hope that things could advance sufficiently in
the next round of negotiations after the Conservative party conference -- it
doesn't mention that, of course -- before the European Council to speed things
up," Corbett told MNI.
     If the stick-rather-than-carrot approach works, the British side will get
exactly what they are asking for: a move onto future relationship talks sooner
rather than later.
     All eyes are now on UK Prime Minister Theresa May, who will deliver her
keynote address at the Conservative party conference on Wednesday. Huebner
welcomed the "shift" since May's Florence speech, but many during the Parliament
debate laid the blame for lack of progress firmly at the door of her government,
citing the visible in-fighting in Britain's cabinet as a major problem.
     Conservative MEP Dan Dalton told MNI he rejected the accusation of
squabbling delaying talks.
     "Back home, people are always going to be disagreeing with certain elements
of proposals, but that's natural on something this complex," he said.
     "But the government's position is clear, and the cabinet is united behind
that position."
     If the British side cannot adequately convince Barnier of that and of their
willingness to solve the issues at stake, further delays will hit parallel
talks. This would in turn eat into an already-short window: the UK will formally
depart the EU at the end of March 2019.
--MNI Brussels Bureau; +44 203-865-3851; email:
--MNI London Bureau; tel: +44 203-586-2225; email:
[TOPICS: M$B$$$,M$E$$$,MC$$$$,MI$$$$,MX$$$$,MGB$$$]
MNI London Bureau | +44 203-865-3812 |

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