Another round of Brexit negotiations came and went last week, not with a bang but with a whimper. Only now it actually looks like the UK is waking up to the seriousness of the situation and is more willing to start cleaning up the mess.
While David Davis and his negotiators may have turned up to Commission HQ late in the day and without the position papers the EU wanted, they were at least fully stocked with one essential item: toilet rolls.
Sources said that the British team’s base of operations, the UK Permanent Representation, made sure each cubicle was fully stocked in order to accommodate the 100+ negotiators who crossed the Channel on Monday afternoon.
And the UK government now looks like it is willing to clean up another mess. Back from their summer holidays, MPs have to decide which of their ranks will sit on Westminster’s influential select committees, in particular the Exiting the European Union Committee.
With its chair already elected, one could (optimistically) predict that this might bring some stability to the negotiations, which have so far not exactly embodied Theresa May’s “strong and stable” election slogan.
Some level heads could help steady the ship now that a few of the committee members were promoted out and into ministerial positions. Current Environment Minister Michael Gove being a prime example.
A spokesperson for the prime minister also revealed on Monday that the government is ready to “intensify” the exit talks.
Add to this intriguing mix the unconfirmed rumours that May has secretly signed off on a Brexit bill worth around €55bn and we could be looking at a British side finally ready to sit down and negotiate properly. Maybe.
Regardless, too much time has been lost and it looks impossible to meet next month’s European Council summit deadline for assessing if enough progress has been made.
Everything coming out of the EU side suggests that the divorce bill, Northern Ireland and citizens’ rights will still be outstanding come 19 October.
So while the UK will have to wait a bit longer to start hashing out its future relationship with the EU, the optimists among you could start to believe the Brexit train is actually back on track. Or at least ready to leave the station.
Not a moment too soon either, given that Michel Barnier’s clock continues to count down and Jean-Claude Juncker’s right-hand man, Martin Selmayr, has all but dashed any outstanding notions that Brexit won’t happen on time.
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After abolishing roaming, MEPs take on mobile network carriers on international calls and texts, which they argue are “outrageously high”. Perhaps hopping from Brussels to Strasbourg on a monthly basis may have something to do with this?
A change in laws in Bulgaria could hinder legal action by environmental NGOs by raising costs, the European Commission has been asked to intervene.
Plans for a European Defence Fund are unacceptable and only benefit military industries and the arms trade – two things which counter the EU’s origins as a project for peace, writes Xavier Masllorens of the International Catalan Institute for Peace.
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Organic food consumption hindered by… middleman’s profit margins. French supermarkets make 96% margins on organic than conventional products.
The EU breaks the stalemate on the ban on chemicals known to affect our hormonal system – starting with pesticides. But the road is long and critics say that exemptions are too wide.
Turkey and Hungary are bonding over…their common enemy Germany. Merkel and Schulz agreed on one thing in the televised debate: both in Erdogan’s Turkey and in Orban’s Hungary, democracy is receding. Well, the two didn’t like to be treated as scoundrels.
Slovenia thinks it “funny” if Croatia was to join Schengen: the two countries are at loggerheads over Piran Bay since 1991. And if Zagreb does not respect an international ruling, Ljubljana may veto Croatia’s Schengen bids. Here is the latest on a vintage dispute.
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Look out for…
Federica Mogherini joins EU foreign and defence ministers in Estonia for informal discussions on the future of NATO and security in the Sahel.
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