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European Movement Breakfast Briefing with Stefaan De Rynck

On Wednesday, 20 March 2019, a day before the European Council summit, the European Movement International held its Breakfast Briefing, featuring Stefaan De Rynck, Senior Advisor to Michel Barnier, EU Chief Negotiator for Brexit.

Mr De Rynck shared his insights on the current Brexit status and resulting questions and concerns regarding the future relationship between the UK and the EU. In an initial overview it has been remarked that, while the UK’s withdrawal agreement is ready for ratification, a possible extension of Article 50 will be discussed within the European Council this week. If this is the case, UK will be asked to provide accurate reasons for an extension. Two scenarios are possible: if a short extension of Brexit is granted, the deal must be ratified. Otherwise, a longer extension will trigger a long political process in Britain.

Afterwards, the floor was opened for questions, allowing for a discussion with all participants. Among the topics addressed: the effects of a new deal for business and citizens. In this regard, it was been pointed out that most legislation – relating particularly to transportation, social security regulation, administration issues – has already been adopted, and that only two legislations are still on the hold. In other words, the probability of a new agreement seems unlikely, especially since business and industries are already prepared for leaving the Union by the end of March. As for the citizens, the Commission is making sure that UK and member states keep the matter of residences permits and, particularly, of temporary residences as simple as possible in order not to affect citizens across EU.

Questions on future EU budget and UK’s role in the MFF have also been raised: in case of a so-called “flex”-extension of Brexit, which could be considered as an extension of UK’s European membership, Britain is expected to comply with future budget obligations, since they are legal binding and international duties. Ultimately the debate focused on whether the EU could have done more in order to prevent Brexit and if it must take up responsibility. While reminding that Brexit was a national decision and that the responsibility lies particularly with contingent actors of the “leave” campaign, the EU Commission however recognizes that some feel dissatisfied towards the EU and strives for understanding the grounds leading to this aversion.

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