Thursday 12 September 2019 4:47 pm

Barnier rejects Brexit extension without 'concrete' proposals

A number of leading European figures have said there is “no reason” to extend the Brexit process, with little sign of any change to the UK’s position.

The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier held a closed-door meeting with members of the European Parliament today.

Ahead of that meeting, Barnier told reporters: “We are still ready to examine objectively any concrete and legally operational proposals from the UK.”

European Parliament president David Sassoli said the UK had made no new proposals that would unlock further time to conduct Brexit talks.

“The UK hasn’t proposed any alternatives, and anything that’s been legally credible and workable,” said Sassoli. “Unfortunately, the signals that we’re getting aren’t indicating that there’s any initiative that could reopen the negotiations.”

Xavier Bettel, the prime minister of Luxembourg – one of the member states seen as more sympathetic towards the UK because of its extensive ties in the financial services industry, concurred.

“We see no extension for Brexit, when there is no reason to,” he said. “At the moment, there is no reason to give an extension.

“When there are concrete reasons … we will discuss whether we will give a new mandate or a new extension, but that is not the case at the moment.

“As long as there aren’t any concrete proposals, there is no reason for us to reopen anything.”

But Danuta Hubner, EPP group member of the Brexit Steering Group, said a third extension could “probably” be granted.

“But it would have to be justified,” she said, adding a no-deal would be “a dramatic way to leave the European Union”.

Although the official line is that no new proposals have been put forward, there is increasing consensus both in Westminster and Brussels that a breakthrough may be on its way, potentially in time for the European Council on 17 and 18 October.

As reported by City A.M. earlier this week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson looks set to propose an all-Ireland solution on agri-foods, which may effectively be a Northern Ireland-only backstop in all but name.

The Centre for European Reform’s director Charles Grant has tweeted a lengthy thread suggesting that EU officials are onboard with this in theory.

“France, Germany, Commission could go along with this, but only if UK produces serious proposals, which it has not yet done. It would have to accept role for ECJ,” he wrote. “The other member-states do not want to put pressure on Ireland. But if the UK gets serious about a deal and shows flexibility, there would be gentle encouragement for Dublin to accept something almost equivalent to backstop.”

However, there is concern that even if he is able to broker a deal next month, there will not be enough time to get it through parliament both in the UK and EU before the 31 October deadline.

Main image: Getty