Official speeches and statements - April 12, 2019
First of all, the 27 were united last night. It’s important to note and reiterate this.
Secondly, the purpose of the extension, which was granted, was also established very clearly: this is in no way about re-opening the negotiations on the withdrawal agreement, but about allowing the British authorities the time to ratify it to enable an orderly withdrawal. In the same way, last night’s European Council conclusions specify that this extra period of time may not be used to re-open the negotiations on the future relationship. As we’ve already said, we’re prepared to amend the political declaration on our future relationship, if the British position were to evolve, but negotiations on the arrangements for it will be opened only after the United Kingdom’s withdrawal.
As you can see, the timetable has been set and extra time granted. But it’s now up to the British to determine whether they wish to leave the European Union under the terms agreed in the agreement, if they wish to leave with no deal, or if they wish to go back on their decision vis-à-vis Article 50. But it’s their responsibility.
And I must say that neither the British nor the [other] citizens of the European Union can live in a permanent state of Brexit or an eternal state of Brexit; this, I hope, is the message the British are going to hear.
I obviously share your concerns. Earlier on, in answer to another question, I said that Brexit can’t be a permanent approach and that we can’t live either in a permanent state of Brexit or an eternal state of Brexit.
The decision taken last night upheld four basic principles for all of us.
Firstly, the interests of the European Union; secondly, the British democratic vote; thirdly, the need for an unambiguous process, particularly on the renegotiation - as I explained earlier; and, finally, the unity of the 27. These four principles were met with general agreement. That’s a good thing.
The main concern is to ensure that the European Union continues to function smoothly, and in this respect Britain gave guarantees, which we’ll have to make sure are properly applied.
Firstly, [the guarantee] that during this period Britain will commit to doing its duty of cooperating in good faith. It’s the least it can do.
Secondly, the 27 may meet as 27 over the period in order to prepare for matters arising after Britain has left the European Union.
Thirdly, the deadline of this new extension has been set before the new Commission takes office. (...)
And finally, fourthly, Britain has committed to holding European elections if it is still a member and hasn’t ratified the withdrawal agreement before the election deadline, otherwise the withdrawal will take place on 1 June, the date on which there will be another European Council to check the commitments made by Britain in last night’s agreement.
I think there’s now finally a way forward, and we hope that Britain is on as clear a path as the 27 were last night.