April 04, 2019
Juncker seeks to pull the plug on no-deal temptations
At this stage of the Brexit drama in Westminster, the EU is certain to afford the UK a new short extension until the European elections if the Commons pass the withdrawal treaty by the April 12 deadline, and likely to concede a long one coming with tough conditions if the Commons don’t. In a speech before the European Parliament yesterday, Jean-Claude Juncker stressed the risks to the EU elections and the functioning of the EU if the British EU membership remained in a political limbo.
But at the same time, we note that Juncker went out on a limb to make clear that he would fight against any attempt in the European Council emergency Brexit meeting next Wednesday to pull the plug on Westminster’s attempts to avert a no deal scenario. The only beneficiaries of such an outcome would be the populists and nationalists, said the Commission president:
"I will work until the last moment to avoid a “no-deal” outcome…The European Union will not kick any member state out. I will personally do everything I can to prevent a disorderly Brexit and I expect political leaders across the EU27 and in the United Kingdom to do the same."
We read Juncker’s highly unusual choice of words as a direct rebuke to any temptations in Paris and other EU capitals to declare next week that the time for patience with London must be over should Theresa May and the Commons fail once more to produce any reliable roadmap as to the way forward. Emmanuel Macron in particular had used the visit of Leo Varadkar in the Elysée the day before to say that the EU could not allow itself to continue to be consumed by Brexit as it had been in the past years. Given that Angela Merkel is on the same line as Juncker, we expect that the two between them will have sufficient sway in the European Council to ensure that a long extension will be granted provided Theresa May offers even the semblance of a plan to move beyond the current mess. At this stage, neither Macron nor any other EU leader will want to shoulder the responsibility of a no-deal alone.
As Barnier before him, Juncker added that the UK would find the three topics of citizens’ rights, its financial contribution to the EU budget, and the Northern Irish border back on the negotiating table once it returned to it after having left the EU without a deal.