EU minister ‘nervous’ time running out for Brexit deal

Britain's newly appointed chief Brexit negotiator Dominic Raab, left, and EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier speak to the media ahead of a meeting at the European Commission in Brussels, Thursday, July 19, 2018. (AP)
Updated 20 July 2018
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EU minister ‘nervous’ time running out for Brexit deal

BRUSSELS: European Union ministers met Friday to discuss gaps with Britain in the Brexit negotiations as Germany’s envoy admitted he was nervous time was running out for a deal.
EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier was due to brief the ministers on his talks with his new British counterpart Dominic Raab, after their first meeting on Thursday.
Raab took up the job after a rebellion against Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit blueprint, with the discord in London and slow pace of talks worrying many in Europe.
“Time is running out. The clock is ticking. That is why I’m a little bit nervous,” Germany’s European affairs minister Michael Roth said on arrival for the Brussels meeting.
Britain is set to leave the bloc on March 30, but the two sides want to strike an agreement by late October in order to give parliaments enough time to endorse a deal.
The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, published a document on Thursday urging the remaining 27 member states and businesses to “step up preparations” for all outcomes, including the lack of deal.
It warned of disruptions, including to business supply chains.
Britons voted to leave the 28-nation bloc in June 2016, but negotiations were only launched a year later and have bogged down frequently since then.
Raab said in Brussels on Thursday he looked forward to “intensifying, heating up” the Brexit negotiations.
May’s blueprint would see Britain ask the EU for a free trade area for goods through a “facilitated customs arrangement” alongside a “common rulebook.”
EU ministers welcomed some but not all parts of the blueprint.
They listed as a top concern the lack of progress on the future of the border between EU member Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland.
Under its guidelines, the EU stipulates there should be no “hard border,” such as customs checks, in order to preserve the gains of the Irish peace process.
“We have no solution yet” on Ireland, Luxembourg’s minister Jean Asselborn told reporters.
“And if we can’t find a solution, I don’t know how to bring Brexit to the goal,” Asselborn said.
Standing with Raab on Thursday, Barnier said there were only 13 months to finalize a withdrawal agreement.
“It is a matter of urgency to agree on a legally operative backstop for Ireland and northern Ireland. We need an all weather insurance policy,” he said.


Sweden’s Center Party to reject Lofven as PM

Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Lofven arrives at a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium October 17, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 43 min 4 sec ago
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Sweden’s Center Party to reject Lofven as PM

  • The September election gave neither the center-left nor the center-right a majority, leaving the balance of power with the Sweden Democrats

STOCKHOLM: Attempts to form a new Swedish government were back at square one on Monday after the Center Party said it would vote against Social Democrat leader Stefan Lofven’s return as prime minister because he had rejected their policy demands.
Sweden has been without a government since a Sept. 9 election delivered a hung parliament which subsequently voted Lofven out as prime minister after four years in office and then also rejected the candidacy of the leader of the four-party center-right Alliance.
The Center and Liberal parties, nominally party of the Alliance, said last month they were willing to support Lofven if he accepted a number of major policy compromises, including lower taxes and more liberal labor laws.
But Center leader Annie Loof said Lofven had been unwilling to back down on several of their key demands.
“We would have need to see considerably more liberal political reforms in order for the Center party to be able to come to an agreement and allow Stefan Lofven four more years,” Loof told reporters.
The September election gave neither the center-left nor the center-right a majority, leaving the balance of power with the Sweden Democrats, a hard-right anti-immigration party that mainstream groups refuse to deal with.
With no signs of compromise, it is unclear what will happen now. If parliament rejects four prime ministerial candidates, then there will automatically be a fresh election.