The Brief – An outbreak of visa sanity

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Across the UK and the rest of Europe, citizens let out a collective groan when UK Prime Minister Theresa May said she wants to reopen the Brexit deal. But there was at least a glimmer of hope among the fudge.

Another day, another episode of high drama (or tragicomedy) in the House of Commons. In her latest bid to calm the civil war in her Conservative party, May told MPs to give her a mandate to re-open the Withdrawal Agreement.

MPs rejected her deal by a huge majority earlier this month.

But while the Brexit talks are interminable, and their likely final outcome as clear as mud, there was some welcome clarity about the future, and it looks like there’s no need to shut the Channel Tunnel any time soon

Today, the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties committee approved proposals to changes to the EU’s visa rules that, with or without a Brexit deal, UK nationals will not need an EU visa for short-stays of up to three months.

The change now needs to be backed by governments before being signed off by MEPs in March, allowing it to enter into force before the 29 March deadline when, as it stands, the UK will formally leave the EU.

Although Brits hoping to live and work in an EU country still face an uncertain future, the visa waiver will allow tourism and most business activity to continue as it currently does.

Provided that the UK does not revoke visa-free access, freedom of movement – albeit for up to three months – will not be ended by Brexit.

The UK has signaled that it will allow EU nationals to continue to travel visa-free for tourism and short stays, although its draft Immigration Bill would mean that most EU workers would no longer enjoy the automatic right to live and work in the UK.

This is a small, but welcome, outbreak of sanity.

While politicians tie themselves in knots over a form of words to guarantee that Ireland will not have a return to a hard border, they have a duty to ensure that life will probably go on with as little disruption as possible.

Maintaining visa free travel is one way of ensuring that the 33 kilometres separating Britain from continental Europe will not get any wider after Brexit.

The Roundup

By Alexandra Brzozowski

CETA is back with revenge: The new system to settle disputes between states and private investors included in the EU-Canada trade agreement is compatible with EU law, the EU Court’s advocate general concluded.

MEPs are in a dispute over the EU Commission’s big climate plan, in what has been labelled a clash of egos within the halls of the European Parliament.

In a symbolic gesture, Greece will be the first to open NATO’s doors to North Macedonia. And as NATO turns 70 this year, the security community calls for a very special birthday gift.

Socialist, green and leftist political parties should learn from governments in southern Europe and unite against rising right-wing anti-European populism ahead of the EU elections, Greek PM Alexis Tsipras said.

Are pro-EU forces ready for the anti-EU’s main election theme? Former Italian PM Enrico Letta told EU politicians to brace themselves. Meanwhile, Germany’s liberals signed off on European election programme.

Although the European Digital Market has been in place since 2015, much remains to be done to tackle disparities between EU member states and to ensure fair taxation. Read our Special Report here.

The amount of investment mobilised by the European Fund for Strategic Investments may have been overestimated, a new report finds.

Once regarded as the breadbasket of Europe, Ukraine is now ready to be the ‘supermarket of the world’ as processed and high-end product manufacturing is booming, Ukraine’s deputy agriculture minister said.

Remember our caption contest. What on earth could Phil Hogan have said to Jean-Claude here? Best entries here for a shout-out in The Brief!

Look out for…

The European Parliament’s two-day mini-Brussels plenary session starts tomorrow.

Views are the author’s

[Edited by Sam Morgan and Zoran Radosavljevic]

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