European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (C-R) welcomes British Prime Minister Theresa May (C-L) as she arrives at the EU headquarters in Brussels to hold a meeting on Brexit talks on February 20, 2019. AFP/John Thys
Brexit deadlock
LATEST UPDATE: November 17, 2019 - 9:39am
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November 17, 2019

The upheaval of Brexit means a referendum on Irish unity must be held within the next five years, the leader of republican party Sinn Fein says Saturday.

The province of Northern Ireland, and its border with the Republic of Ireland, has been a major complication in Britain's attempt to leave the EU.

"The days of partition are numbered, change is in the air, Brexit has changed everything," president Mary Lou McDonald told the party's conference in Londonderry.

"Many people, for the first time, are now considering their future in a United Ireland."

"In the next five years, let the people have their say," she added ?— calling on the Irish government to set a path to the poll with an all-Ireland forum.

A 1998 peace accord ended 30 years of sectarian bloodshed across the island, dictating the border between the British territory and the sovereign nation to the south be rendered invisible. ?— Agence France-Presse

November 4, 2019

The UK parliament selects a new speaker Monday, a once unremarkable event that is now charged with significance following the previous occupant's role in Brexit.

Seven MPs are running to replace John Bercow, who placed himself front and centre of the Brexit saga by choosing amendments and introducing procedures that Leave-supporting MPs claimed were designed to frustrate Britain's departure from the European Union.

Bercow also faced accusations that he fostered a culture of bullying within the lower House of Commons.

But his colorful personality and eccentric performances in parliament gave him an international profile and raised the status of the office. — Agence France-Presse

October 24, 2019

The likelihood of the EU extending the UK's Brexit deadline "looks good", after which Britain should put forward a candidate for the European Commission, its incoming president said on Thursday.

"The question of granting an extension, that looks very good," EU president-elect Ursula von der Leyen told reporters during a visit to Helsinki.

EU member states on Wednesday backed a plan to postpone Brexit beyond October 31, after British prime minister Boris Johnson was compelled to send an extension request under a law passed by rebel MPs.

On Thursday, von der Leyen said that a further Brexit delay would mean the UK should put forward a nominee to join the incoming cabinet of EU commissioners.

"If after the first of November — and this is not a given — there might be an extension and the UK is still in the European Union, then of course I would ask the UK to send a commissioner," von der Leyen said. — Agence France-Presse

October 23, 2019

Germany will not block a request from Britain to extend the deadline for its exit from the European Union beyond October 31, Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman says Wednesday.

Asked about European Council President Donald Tusk's recommendation that EU's 27 other member states grant a flexible extension until January 31, 2020, spokesman Steffen Seibert tells reporters the request would "not fail due to Germany".

In tense parliamentary votes on Tuesday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson won preliminary backing for the divorce deal he agreed with the EU, which would have seen Britain leave the bloc at the end of this month. — Agence France-Presse

October 21, 2019

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson prepared to Monday make a second attempt to ram his EU divorce deal through parliament and avoid the political damage of delaying Brexit next week.

Another momentous week in the tortuous saga could end with Johnson engineering a divorce from Brussels that breaks many of the island nation's economic relations with Europe after 46 years of EU membership.

British lawmakers dealt a dramatic blow to Johnson's Brexit plan at the weekend by refusing to give their backing to his revised withdrawal agreement until the legislation needed to ratify it has passed.

His foes are now forging new alliances and trying to attach amendments that could either force Johnson to accept closer trade ties — or abandon the deal and accept a third delay this year. — Agence France-Presse

October 20, 2019

EU leaders are on Sunday considering a request by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to delay Britain's departure from the bloc, which he was forced to make after MPs refused to back his Brexit deal.

Johnson has pinned his premiership on getting Britain out of the European Union on October 31, more than three years after the 2016 referendum vote for Brexit.

But the House of Commons on Saturday refused to support a divorce deal he struck with Brussels last week, triggering a law demanding he ask to delay Brexit to avoid the risk of a damaging "no deal" exit. -- Agence France-Presse

October 20, 2019

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson reluctantly wrote to Brussels late Saturday asking for a Brexit extension after MPs voted to force him into seeking a delay beyond October 31.

But Johnson, who has pinned his premiership on getting Britain out of the European Union on time, refused to sign the letter he sent to European Council President Donald Tusk.

The Conservative leader also sent a second signed letter insisting he was not seeking an extension to the Brexit deadline, which has already been postponed twice. -- Agence France-Presse

October 17, 2019

Northern Ireland's DUP said Thursday it was "unable to support" Prime Minister Boris Johnson's draft Brexit agreement, which must still be approved by the UK parliament.

"The Democratic Unionist Party will be unable to support these proposals in parliament," the DUP, which has propped up Johnson's minority government, said in a statement, adding the deal "drives a coach and horses through the professed sanctity of the Belfast Agreement" — the Good Friday peace accords that ended three decades of bloodshed in Northern Ireland. — Agence France-Presse

October 10, 2019

Britain's Brexit-facing economy shrank in August, official data shows Thursday, but analysts say a better-than-expected July is expected to help it avoid recession.

Gross domestic product — the combined value of all goods and services produced in the economy — slid 0.1% in August from July, the Office for National Statistics said in a statement.

That contrasted however with upwardly-revised monthly expansion of 0.4 percent in July.

Sterling barely budged on the August reading, which was only moderately worse than market expectations of zero growth.

And the ONS also revealed Thursday that the economy grew 0.3 percent in the three months to August compared with the previous quarter.

"The most recent GDP readings from the UK have shown a contraction in month-on-month terms — but taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture, it does not appear quite so bad," notes XTB analyst David Cheetham.

He adds: "Following the contraction seen in the second quarter, this means that another negative reading for the third quarter is not at all likely, although growth remains tepid at best." — Agence France-Presse

October 9, 2019

Nearly 1.8 million EU nationals have applied to stay in Britain after Brexit, according to figures out Wednesday.

Some 1,759,400 applications had been received by European Union nationals by September 30, the Home Office interior ministry said, of which 495,700 were received last month alone.

The countries with the most applicants were Poland with 347,300, Romania (280,600), Italy (200,700), Portugal (162,500) and Spain (115,700).

Launched in March, the online system allows EU, wider European Economic Area and Swiss citizens residing in Britain to obtain, free of charge, settled status or pre-settled status.

They have until December 2020 to apply. — Agence France-Presse

October 8, 2019

Britain's debt burden would jump to its highest level in 50 years if it leaves the EU without a deal, a leading think-tank warns Tuesday.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies says that due to Prime Minister Boris Johnson's public spending plans, government borrowing was set to top £50 billion ($61 billion, 56 billion euros), equal to 2.3 percent of GDP, or total national economic output.

The figure is double what the Office for Budget Responsibility public body was forecasting in March, four months before Johnson took office pledging a public services spending boost.

It also breaks the government's self-imposed fiscal rule of keeping borrowing to below two percent of GDP in order to balance the books by the mid-2020s.-- Agence France-Presse

October 2, 2019

Prime Minister Boris Johnson urges the EU to compromise as he prepares to submit a new Brexit plan but warns Britain is ready to leave without a deal on October 31, "come what may."

Johnson says an alternative to a "compromise for both sides" — which included no customs checks "at or near" the Northern Irish border — was for Britain to leave without a deal, "an outcome for which we are ready." — AFP

October 2, 2019

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will unveil his plan for a new Brexit deal at his Conservative party conference Wednesday, warning the EU it is that or Britain leaves with no agreement this month.

Downing Street said Johnson would give details of a "fair and reasonable compromise" in his closing address to the gathering in Manchester, and would table the plans in Brussels the same day.

It stressed this would be a "final offer", and that if the European Union "does not engage" then Johnson would keep to his threat to leave on October 31 with no deal.

The prime minister would "in no circumstances" ask to delay Brexit at a Brussels summit on October 17 and 18, it said in a statement.

"Let's get Brexit done -- we can, we must and we will," Johnson will tell delegates. -- Agence France-Presse

September 17, 2019

One in three Irish farms will be at risk of going under following a no-deal Brexit, the nation's central bank warns.

"Around one third of all farms are classified as economically vulnerable," the Central Bank of Ireland says in a statement.

"Any future negative shock — even one less material than Brexit — would further expose the underlying weaknesses in the sector."

Thirty-eight percent of Irish agrifood exports are made to Britain according to 2017 figures from the Republic's department of agriculture.

But if Britain exits the EU on October 31 without a deal it may revert to World Trade Organisation rules which would see tariffs and other barriers imposed to such cross-border trade. — AFP

September 16, 2019

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker agreed that Brexit talks "needed to intensify," with daily meetings between officials, Downing Street says.

"The leaders agreed that the discussions needed to intensify and that meetings would soon take place on a daily basis," the prime minister's office says following the first face-to-face talks between the pair in Luxembourg. — AFP

 

September 16, 2019

A shock exit by Britain from the EU without an agreement would be "a disaster", the European employers' organization, Business Europe, warns on Monday.

One of the EU's most powerful lobbies, Business Europe issued the warning just hours before British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is scheduled to meet European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Luxembourg.

Both sides are under intense pressure to mend fences just a month and a half before the Britain's scheduled departure on October 31.

But Johnson, unlike his predecessor Theresa May, has said he is determined that the United Kingdom will leave the EU on October 31, with or without agreement.

"No deal is a recipe for disaster and should be definitely ruled out. A disorderly, no deal exit of the UK would be extremely harmful for all sides," says Markus J. Beyrer, CEO of Business Europe in a statement.  — Agence France-Presse

September 16, 2019

A shock exit by Britain from the EU without an agreement would be "a disaster", the European employers' organisation, Business Europe, warned on Monday.

One of the EU's most powerful lobbies, Business Europe issued the warning just hours before British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is scheduled to meet European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Luxembourg.

Both sides are under intense pressure to mend fences just a month and a half before the Britain's scheduled departure on October 31. — AFP

September 15, 2019

Former British Prime Minister David Cameron launches a blistering attack on the UK's current leader Boris Johnson in extracts of his memoirs published Sunday, accusing him of only backing Brexit to further his own career.

He says Johnson, who took office in July, believed that campaigning for Britain to leave the European Union during the 2016 referendum would make him the "darling" of their Conservative party.

Damningly, he also says that Johnson privately believed there should be a second referendum to confirm the terms of Brexit — something the premier has strongly resisted since.

In extracts published in the Sunday Times newspaper, Cameron — who led the failed "Remain" campaign to stay in the EU — also accused his "Leave" rivals of lying to the public. — AFP

September 9, 2019

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets his Irish counterpart in Dublin as he battles to salvage his hardline Brexit strategy and force an early election in the face of fierce opposition in Westminster.

Johnson holds talks with Leo Varadkar amid an apparent stalemate in the Brexit process and as MPs look set to vote down his second bid for a snap poll next month.

The British leader has vowed to take Britain out of the EU by October 31 with or without a formal divorce deal — despite warnings that the latter scenario would entail economic chaos. — AFP

August 29, 2019

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson sparks fury Wednesday among pro-Europeans and MPs opposed to a no-deal Brexit by forcing the suspension of parliament weeks before Britain's EU departure date.

The pound slid on the surprise news, which opponents branded a "coup" and a "declaration of war" but Johnson claimed was necessary to allow him to pursue a "bold and ambitious" new domestic agenda.

It came a day after opposition parties vowed to seek legislative changes to prevent a no-deal Brexit. — Agence France-Presse

August 25, 2019

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson holds his first face-to-face talks with Donald Trump since taking office, with the US president backing him as the "right man" to deliver Brexit for Britain.

Trump and Johnson meet on the sidelines of the Group of Seven (G7) summit hosted by France in Biarritz. Asked what his advice is for Brexit, Trump replies: "He (Johnson) needs no advice, he is the right man for the job."

July 23, 2019

European Union chiefs say they want to work with Britain's next prime minister Boris Johnson to ratify the Brexit withdrawal deal signed by his predecessor.

"We look forward to working constructively with PM Boris Johnson when he takes office, to facilitate the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement and achieve an orderly Brexit," EU negotiator Michel Barnier tweets immediately after Johnson was confirmed as leader of Britain's Conservative Party and hence incoming premier.

July 14, 2019

French President Emmanuel Macron will showcase Europe's defense capabilities by putting European military cooperation at the heart of a Bastille Day parade at a time of growing tensions with the United States.

Key EU leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Theresa May, are expected to join Macron to watch the annual parade down the Champs Elysees that marks the July 14, 1789 storming of the Bastille fortress in Paris in the French Revolution.

May 25, 2019

Contenders to succeed Theresa May as Britain's prime minister prepare to launch their leadership campaigns, leaving Brexit shrouded in uncertainty.

A tearful May announced her resignation on Friday, leaving the Brexit process for exiting the European Union in limbo and raising the risk of Britain crashing out of the bloc in a few months.

May's statement inevitably triggered the starting gun on a two-month contest to replace her.

May will step down as Conservative leader on June 7 but stay on as prime minister until party members have chosen her successor, which will happen by July 20. — AFP

May 10, 2019

France opposes repeated extensions for Britain's exit from the European Union, a presidential official says, keeping to the hard line of Paris on Brexit.

France does not want to enter into a cycle of "repeated extensions" following this month's European parliament elections which Britain will take part in after being extended to the end of October, says the official, adding that London should "have a solution before October 31." — AFP

April 11, 2019

France's Europe minister on Thursday defended President Emmanuel Macron's opposition to granting a Brexit extension of more than six months, saying it would have been seen as an attempt by the EU to keep Britain in the bloc.

On Wednesday, Macron led a group of EU countries that resisted a move by a majority of EU leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, to give Britain an extension of up to a year. 

British Prime Minister Theresa May had herself asked for a shorter extension, until June 30.

In the end the leaders gathered in Brussels settled on October 31, which May accepted. -- Agence France-Presse

April 10, 2019

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says Wednesday that she is open to giving Britain more time to arrange its exit from the EU than the June 30 departure London is seeking.

Merkel told Germany's parliament ahead of a special EU summit in Brussels dedicated to Brexit that leaders may well agree to a delay "longer than the British prime minister (Theresa May) has requested".

She said she would meet French President Emmanuel Macron ahead of the summit with the aim of hashing out a common stance on the length of a further extension.  

"I am of the opinion, the German government is of the opinion, that we should give both (British) parties a reasonable amount of time" to reach an agreement on an orderly Brexit, she said.

"I think the extension should be as short as possible. But it should be long enough to create a certain calm so we don't have to meet every two weeks to deal with the same subject."

Without a postponement, Britain is due to crash out of the European Union at midnight on Friday under a "no-deal" Brexit that could trigger economic chaos. -- Agence France-Presse

April 8, 2019

Prime Minister Theresa May will on Monday press ahead with her bid for a Brexit "compromise" with the opposition despite a backlash from her own party, as she attempts to prevent Britain crashing out of the European Union this week.

Talks with the Labour Party are expected ahead of a crucial EU summit that could see Britain leave the bloc as early as Friday, if no further delay is agreed.

Having failed three times to get her withdrawal deal through parliament, May has been locked in talks with Labour to find a modified plan that could command a majority, causing anger within her own party.

"It'll mean compromise on both sides but I believe that delivering Brexit is the most important thing for us. -- Agence France-Presse

April 5, 2019

The prospect of Britain holding European elections would have been unthinkable just weeks ago but with the Brexit timetable now uncertain, the country is reluctantly planning for a possible campaign.

Village halls and schools across the country are being booked as polling centres, and orders placed with specialist stationers for tens of millions of ballots in case the May 23 vote goes ahead.

The government has yet to give formal notice of the poll, with the deadline next Friday, but this week agreed to pay for initial preparations.

And after Prime Minister Theresa May admitted she would seek to again delay Brexit, amid continuing deadlock over her plan to leave, officials believe such notice is inevitable.

"If we were to still be a member of the EU, which is not our government's intention, but if we were, we would need to have European Parliament elections," Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay told MPs on Thursday. -- Agence France-Presse

April 4, 2019

The British government and the main opposition were to hold further crisis talks on Thursday after MPs voted in favour of a Brexit delay that would avoid Britain crashing out of the EU on April 12.

With options running out, May switched course and invited Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for talks on Wednesday in a bid to forge a compromise that avoids a chaotic "no-deal" departure from the European Union in eight days' time.

Negotiating teams for both sides were to meet again on Thursday for a full day of urgent discussions. -- Agence France-Presse

April 2, 2019

The failure of British lawmakers to agree an alternative Brexit strategy means their country will almost certainly crash out of the EU without a deal, a leading MEP warns Tuesday.

"The House of Commons again votes against all options. A hard Brexit becomes nearly inevitable," Guy Verhofstadt, the former Belgian prime minister and head of the European Parliament's Brexit steering committee said. 

"On Wednesday, the UK has a last chance to break the deadlock or face the abyss," he says in a tweet. -- Agence France-Presse

March 25, 2019

British Prime Minister Theresa May will on Monday chair a potentially volatile meeting of her cabinet amid reports of an attempted coup by colleagues over her handling of Brexit.

May will meet the very ministers said to be plotting to oust her at the start of another crucial week in Britain's withdrawal from the European Union, which could see MPs seize control of the process from the government. 

Lawmakers are set to vote later Monday on whether to force through the House of Commons a series of so-called "indicative votes" to gauge support for various Brexit options. -- Agence France-Presse

March 19, 2019

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she will struggle until the last possible moment to achieve an orderly Brexit, saying the interests of Germany, Britain and the EU are at stake.

"I will fight to the last hour of the deadline on March 29 for an orderly exit (of Britain from the European Union)," she tells a conference in Berlin.

"We don't have a lot of time for it but still have a few days." — AFP

British Prime Minister Theresa May hailed "progress" in talks with the EU on Wednesday aimed at solving the Brexit deadlock.

May said her meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker had been "constructive" with the two sides agreeing to work on assurances over the thorny "Irish backstop" issue. — AFP

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