The Netherlands’ foreign minister says talks are underway in Brussels to try and avoid a No Deal Brexit after Boris Johnson suspended parliament.
Stephan Blok said serious discussions took place on Wednesday, but the sides have yet to bridge their differences over the terms of the withdrawal agreement.
‘We are not there yet,’ Mr Blok told an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers in Finland, which is also being attended by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.
Stephan Blok, Dutch foreign minister, said ‘serious talks’ are underway in Brussels over Brexit following Mr Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament, but no new deal has been reached
Mr Blok spoke to reporters from an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers in Helsinki that is being attended by British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab
Mr Johnson has told the EU that he will not accept any deal that includes a version of the Irish backstop – which would effectively keep the UK in a customs union with the EU – while European leaders have insisted the terms of the deal will not change.
The Tory leader turned up the heat on Europe Wednesday when he suspended parliament from some time in the week of September 9 until October 14.
The move, which falls within the letter of parliamentary law but has been described as a ‘coup’ by critics, is designed to limit the amount of time that rebels have to pass laws that would tie Mr Johnson’s hands in negotiations, or topple his government.
Mr Johnson is hoping that the threat of a No Deal exit, which the EU admits is not in its interests, will force Europe to reopen negotiations.
The UK’s top negotiator David Frost is in Brussels for technical talks with diplomats in an attempt to find some progress.
Mina Andreeva, spokesman for the EU Commission, said Wednesday that the EU will assess any proposal the UK offers ‘that are compatible with’ the withdrawal agreement it reached with former prime minister Theresa May.
The European Union itself is staying well away from the uproar caused by Mr Johnson’s decision – but its chief Brexit official Guy Verhofstadt said Wednesday that promises by Brexiteers to ‘take back control’ have ‘never looked so sinister’.
‘As a fellow parliamentarian, my solidarity [is] with those fighting for their voices to be heard,’ the Belgian MEP said on Twitter.
‘Suppressing debate on profound choices is unlikely to help deliver a stable future EU-UK relationship.’
French MEP Nathalie Loiseau, a former Europe minister, said: ‘We are going to see a Brexit without agreement and what’s more a Brexit without debate.
Top European politicians reacted with a mixture of disbelief, anger and sadness after Boris Johnson announced he was suspending parliament in the run-up to Brexit on October 31
‘What illness is British democracy suffering from to be fearful of debate before making one of the most important decisions in its history?’
Former Finnish prime minister Alexander Stubb said it ‘makes me really sad to see what Brexit is doing to one of the great democracies of our time’.
‘Please, stay calm and use common sense,’ he added.
Norbert Rottgen, chairman of the German parliament’s foreign affairs committee, said: ‘Johnson argues that respect for democracy dictates implementing Brexit ‘do or die’ on October 31.
‘As a fellow parliamentarian and democrat I wonder: how does respect for democracy go together with suspending Parliament?!’
Dutch MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld said: ‘Suspending Parliament is basically the suspension of democracy and the voice of the people.
‘Nothing less than an anti-democratic power-grab. It makes the slogan ‘taking back control’ sound quite sinister.’
Meanwhile Mr Johnson told his Cabinet the EU would think ‘these guys really are serious’ after parliament was suspended, adding that Brussels was more likely to offer Britain a deal if it thought that parliament could no longer ‘frustrate’ Brexit.
While Mr Johnson insists the reason for the suspension is so he can introduce a new legislative agenda, he added that events in parliament would have a ‘direct impact’ on Brexit negotiations.
He insisted that his decision was ’emphatically not’ about bypassing MPs, but acknowledged it would make a ‘huge difference’ in negotiations with Brussels once the threat of MPs stopping Brexit was removed.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, told reporters in Berlin Wednesday that ‘this is a parliamentary procedure in Britain that is being discussed vigorously there, and won’t be commented on by the government in Germany.’
On a conference call with his Cabinet yesterday, Mr Johnson said the message it would send to Brussels is that No Deal remained a genuine option, and would help negotiations
Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Commons Leader, on Thursday dared pro-Europe opponents to either change the law to prevent a No Deal Brexit or else topple the government
Jeremy Corbyn (pictured today) accused the PM of launching a ‘smash and grab against our democracy’. He has threatened to oust Mr Johnson using a no confidence vote and install himself as interim leader followed by a general election and second referendum
Ireland’s foreign minister, Simon Coveney, says Wednesday that he believes it’s too late to renegotiate Britain’s departure deal from the European Union.
Coveney said there wouldn’t be enough time before Britain’s Oct. 31 departure deadline ‘even if we wanted to’ reopen the negotiations.
He estimated working out a new deal and getting it approved by EU leaders and British lawmakers ‘would need six or eight weeks.’
However, Coveney says Ireland is ready to study alternatives to a post-Brexit ‘backstop’ aimed at avoiding a new border between the EU’s Ireland and U.K.’s Northern Ireland.
He noted the importance of keeping the peace on an ‘island that has a tragic and violent history.’
The U.K.’s new prime minister, Boris Johnson, opposes the backstop provisions in his predecessor’s deal, which failed to gain parliamentary approval.
Coveney said any alternative Irish border arrangements ‘have got to do the same job as the backstop.’
DUP leader Arlene Foster said in statement that ‘we welcome the decision to hold a Queen’s Speech marking the start of a new session of Parliament on 14 October where the government will set out its new domestic legislative agenda.’
She added that ‘we will continue our work with the prime minister to strengthen the Union, deliver a sensible deal as we exit the EU and restore devolution in Northern Ireland.’
Jacob Rees-Mogg has told Remain-backing MPs they have two ways of stopping a No Deal Brexit as he issued an extraordinary challenge in the wake of Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament.
The Commons Leader said Mr Johnson’s political opponents could either try to pass a law to stop the UK leaving the EU without an agreement on October 31 or they could try to topple the government.
He appeared to taunt Europhile MPs as he suggested they did not have the ‘courage or the gumption’ to act.
His comments are likely to pour fuel on the fire of what was already a volatile atmosphere in Westminster after MPs responded with widespread fury to Mr Johnson’s plan to shut down Parliament for five weeks.
U.S. President Donald Trump says it will be hard for the leader of Britain’s main opposition party to seek a no-confidence vote on Prime Minister Boris Johnson over Brexit.
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and other opponents of Johnson’s Conservative Party government were scrambling Wednesday after the prime minister moved to suspend Parliament for about a month.
Queen Elizabeth II granted Johnson’s request to do just that, shortening the time the opposition has to keep him from taking the U.K. out of the European Union on Oct. 31 even if it doesn’t have a withdrawal agreement with the EU.
Johnson is a strong Brexit supporter.
Trump tweeted Wednesday ‘it would be very hard’ for Corbyn to get a no-confidence vote ‘especially in light of the fact that Boris is exactly what the U.K. has been looking for, & will prove to be `a great one!’ Love U.K.’
A diagram showing what could happen next after Boris Johnson announced that Parliament would be prorogued from mid-September until a Queen’s Speech in mid-October