The Brief, powered by Eni – You Brexit, you fix it

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter.

The talking points of the day are some cheeky sentences in the minutes of the College of Commissioners’ meeting, published yesterday, and today’s presser by chief EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.

Under the so-called ‘transparency’ rules, the Commission publishes the minutes of its weekly meetings but always with a big delay, which gives the hapless spokesperson the chance to claim that the context has changed in the meantime.

But the College meeting in question was on 12 July, so come on! Eight pages on the Brexit
negotiations published ahead of Theresa May’s big speech expected on 21 September is not “old context” – it’s a huge load of well-thought out messages.

To pick up a quote, Commission President Juncker “expressed his concern about the question of the stability and accountability of the UK negotiator and his apparent lack of involvement, which risked jeopardising the success of the negotiations”. If this is not hard talk, one should wonder what is.

We all remember the famous photo in which Barnier and his team sit opposite David Davis and his aides. The EU negotiators had reams of documents on show while Davis was pictured grinning, without a single scrap of paper in front of him.

Speaking to the press, Barnier said “there is a problem of confidence here,” the diplomatic way of saying confidence is in short supply. He made it clear today that he is unhappy about the pace of the negotiations and said he was prepared to have more meetings.

He added the UK appears to be going backwards on agreeing on a financial settlement and said he was worried about the UK’s paper on Ireland and Northern Ireland, because, in his words, London wants to use Ireland as a kind of test case for the future EU-UK customs relations.

“This will not happen,” Barnier said. In its new position, the Commission makes it clear that the solution to the Irish border problem is strictly Britain’s responsibility.

EURACTIV asked an Irish diplomat what he thought. He commented that it was up to the UK to propose a workable solution. “You Brexit, you fix it”, he said. They created Brexit after all (although it was EURACTIV that indirectly coined it).

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The Roundup

Farmers can take respite: the Commission agreed to pay 85% of CAP in October, to account for drought and lack of rain that brought European farmers to their knees.

Data is the commodity of the future, and its trade is profitable. The data protection regulation can bring the EU ahead of the pack –  but it comes with huge privacy challenges.

In an uneventful campaign, Merkel and Schulz finally found something to argue about: the creation of a digital ministry, to be in charge of responsibilities currently scattered across the justice, infrastructure, security and economy ministries.

Austria has been guarding its borders fiercely to prevent illegal immigration. Sometimes excessively, pissing its neighbours off. This time is Slovenia’s turn to complain.

Tallin leads the way for public transport, accommodating a network of sustainable and accessible infrastructure and digital tickets in its cobblestoned streets.

The EU has stepped up its anti-trust game – but has the watchdog become short-sighted? A newly merged eyewear giant will tell.

Europe’s investment in education keeps dropping – heightening the risk of a wider social divide. Private schools, migration and austerity pose challenges that can’t be dealt with budget cuts.

The dispute continues! Slovenia softly threatened to veto Croatia’s Schengen and OECD bid while Zagreb told Ljubljana to cut its diplomatic blackmailing.

Denmark seeks to stop Nord Stream gas pipeline but its efforts might be futile. Is the Commission trying to wriggle out of it?

EU policymakers get into the nitty-gritty of biofuels – the Commission no longer likes them but MEPs say this U-turn is scientifically unfounded and are preparing to strike back.

Look out for…

The Commission’s high-level group on gender mainstreaming meets in Tallin today and tomorrow

The views are the author’s

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