The Brief: Brexit timeline puts May at mercy of EU

The Brief is's evening newsletter.


The Sunday Times declared yesterday that UK Prime Minister Theresa May had fired the Brexit starting gun. This afternoon, the European Commission insisted she hadn’t.

May said in a speech on Sunday that the UK would trigger Article 50, the process to take Britain out of the EU, no later than the end of March next year. Here’s former Europe Minister Denis MacShane’s take on the speech.

At the Commission’s midday press briefing, Chief Spokesman Margaritis Schinas said, “When it comes to Article 50 we will work constructively on the basis of notification, not on a speech. Until this letter of notification arrives, there will be no negotiation.”

Schinas said that May called Commission President Juncker on Sunday and he revealed the two would meet on the sidelines of the October European Council. Does the call and that meeting count as negotiations?

It’s traditional in the EU for diplomats to test the appetite for any initiative with each other before risking an embarrassing rejection of the idea. Are such informal preliminary talks negotiations?

It will be difficult for May to invoke Article 50 without at least some idea of how the other member states will react to her plan for Brexit. But the new timetable means she may have to, if the EU sticks to its guns.

Boris Johnson last week boasted that the government’s Brexit policy “is having our cake and eating it”.

EU leaders, though, are desperate to avoid giving the impression that the Brits are getting away with Brexit.

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Is Nicolas Sarkozy the latest politician to enter the post-fact age? Our analysis suggests he is guilty of telling fibs about Europe.

A new book claims Sarko is a sex-obsessed narcissist, who encouraged his advisors to join in his “raptures” over his wife’s plunging neckline. Speaking of plunging necklines and France, Kim Kardashian was robbed at gunpoint in Paris.

The defenestration of Pedro Sánchez, the now former leader of Spain’s Socialist Workers’ party, could spell the end of the nine-month political deadlock in the country. Spain got an extension from the Commission to deal with its breach of EU fiscal rules because it had no government.

Nearly 100% of Hungarians who voted in Viktor Orbán’s migration referendum voted against EU migrant quotas. But as the turnout was so low, the vote won’t count – or will it? And there’s yet more referendum news in Colombia.

Germany’s interior minister has said that the Dublin migration rules, which mean refugees must claim asylum in the first EU country they reach, should be reinstated. PEGIDA, meanwhile, is not really entering into the spirit of Unity Day.

The EU is failing Afghan migrant children, but is pushing for a new aid plan for besieged Aleppo in Syria.

Bulgaria could get its first female president, smugglers are using drones to fly cigarettes over borders, Dutch bank ING will cut 7,000 jobs in the Netherlands and Belgium, and Romania’s Commissioner has told her compatriots to get better at applying for EU funding.

The EU won’t push for a harmonised system of renewable energy subsidies and Europe lost the Ryder Cup to the USA for the first time in eight years. Could Brexit be to blame?

UK finance minister Philip Hammond talked Brexit at the Conservative Party conference today, the pound sank to a three-year low, and he indulged in some nauseating praise for his boss.

And did you know that France was crying out for high-quality, innovative British jams and marmalades?


UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will be at the European Parliament tomorrow for the plenary vote on the ratification of the Paris Agreement on climate change. India ratified the deal today. The vote in Strasbourg follows Friday’s emergency meeting of EU environment ministers. It should be a formality but questions hover over the Sec-Gen’s preferred candidate to be his successor. Is he a Georgieva or Bokova man? Or does he back New Zealand’s former prime minister, Helen Clark, interviewed here by Daniela Vincenti?


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