No deal for Brexit, but parties ‘positive’ about progress

British Prime Minister Theresa May, left, and European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker address a media conference as they meet for Brexit negotiations on Monday at the European Commission in Brussels. (AFP)
Updated 04 December 2017
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No deal for Brexit, but parties ‘positive’ about progress

LONDON: The EU and Britain concluded a day of talks on Monday without a deal in terms of the Brexit divorce.
However, the British Prime Minister Theresa May and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said they were hopeful of striking a deal that would allow talks to advance to further stages.
The meetings on Monday saw the parties fail to reach complete progress on the main divorce issues: The growing exit bill, rights of citizens in the respective territories and guarantees of a transparent border with Ireland.
The EU leaders want a deal on these issues in time for them to agree at a summit on Dec. 14-15 on next-stage talks. “Despite our best efforts and the significant process we and our teams have made over the past days on the remaining withdrawal issues, it was not possible to reach an agreement,” said Juncker at a joint news conference with May. “This is not a failure,” Juncker added.
“I am also confident we will conclude this positively,” said May.
The Irish agreement under discussion would allow for the border between EU member Ireland and the UK territory of Northern Ireland to remain transparent for trade purposes. However, concerns have been raised by Northern Ireland’s DUP Party — upon which May’s minority government relies to stay in power — that any “differences” between the treatment of Northern Ireland and the rest of Britain would not be acceptable.
Despite the “positivity” of Monday’s talks, the lack of progress so far has raised concerns that Britain may not have a deal on key issues by the time it officially leaves on March 29, 2019.
According to Professor Iain Begg, professorial research fellow at the European Institute at the London School of Economics, the time pressure to reach a decision is critically mounting.
“Each day that goes by without a deal increases pressure on the British government and reduces May’s power for negotiation by compressing the negotiation timetables,” Begg told Arab News.
“The Brexit divorce bill just keeps going up,” he said, noting however that the divorce bill — reportedly amounting to $40 billion — had probably now “reached its limit.”
On the thorny issue of Ireland, Begg said: “Northern Ireland doesn’t want to be different from the UK but it also doesn’t want a ‘hard border’ with Ireland, as that would contravene the Good Friday agreement. In the end, it may come down to a decision about who gets the least upset.”
He added: “The British were ill-equipped to deal with the negotiations of Brexit because (former UK Prime Minister) David Cameron did not ask researchers to prepare a Brexit strategy before the referendum. The negotiations started with no plan in place on the British side … but the European side had set up a very clear mandate. Britain has been playing catch-up.”


Row over Putin’s attendance at Austria minister’s wedding

Austria's Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl addresses the media before a two-day cabinet meeting in Seggau, Austria, in this January 5, 2018 photo. (REUTERS)
Updated 18 August 2018
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Row over Putin’s attendance at Austria minister’s wedding

  • The invitation to Putin has angered Kiev, which said it would prevent Austria playing a role in the Minsk agreements aimed at ending the conflict in eastern Ukraine
  • Putin confirmed he would be attending the wedding before heading to talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel near Berlin on Saturday evening

VIENNA: The expected attendance of Russian President Vladimir Putin at Saturday’s wedding of Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl sparked a row Friday over whether the visit was appropriate.
“How is Austria’s presidency of the EU meant to live up to the government’s own claims of building bridges (between the EU and Russia) and being an honest broker, when Austria’s foreign minister and chancellor are so obviously on one side?” asked MP Andreas Schieder of the opposition Social Democrats (SPOe).
SPOe MEP Evelyn Regner said the invite sent a “shameful” image of Austria to its EU partners, branding it “a provocation of European proportions.”
The Greens called for Kneissl’s resignation, pointing out that “Vladimir Putin is the EU’s most aggressive enemy in matters of foreign policy.”
Kneissl, 53, who was nominated for the post by the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe), will marry businessman Wolfgang Meilinger in a ceremony in a wine-growing village near the southeastern city of Graz.
Putin confirmed he would be attending the wedding before heading to talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel near Berlin on Saturday evening.
Putin’s attendance was originally described as a “private event” by Kneissl’s office but has since been upgraded to a “working visit.”
Several hundred police officers will take part in the security operation around the wedding.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz of the center-right People’s Party (OeVP) and FPOe Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache are also expected at the ceremony.
In 2016, the FPOe signed a “cooperation pact” with Putin’s United Russia party.
The invitation to Putin has angered Kiev, which said it would prevent Austria playing a role in the Minsk agreements aimed at ending the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
The foreign ministry has insisted that Putin’s visit “will not change anything in terms of Austria’s foreign policy positions.”
The invitation has even provoked some criticism from within Kurz’s own OeVP party, with one of its MEPs Othmar Karas saying: “I can’t grasp the logic and the purpose of making such a personal occasion political and open to misuse in this way.”
Russia has been accused of seeking to weaken and divide the EU, notably by maintaining links with populist parties in several European countries.
Kurz’s OeVP and the FPOe have been in coalition together since December after an election campaign in which both parties ran on anti-immigration platforms.