Theresa May attempts to ease the EU stance as Britons request another EU referendum

Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the EC, receives Theresa May, British Prime Minister.
Date: 08/12/2017. Location: Brussels – EC/Berlaymont. © European Union , 2018 Photo: Etienne Ansotte

With less than eight months away from the exit of the UK from the EU, continuous negotiations are being held between the two parties in order to avoid a no-deal Brexit. UK Prime Minister Theresa May will visit French President Emmanuel Macron at his Fort de Brégançon on Friday in an attempt to persuade him ease France’s stance on Brexit and back up a mutual EU-UK agreement.

The fact that Ms May is taking a break from her summer holidays to meet the French President reveals that there is still a big gap between the two sides. The risk of a no-deal exists as a viable backstop for the Northern Ireland – Ireland border is not yet included in the withdrawal agreement.

Apart from the above, the Sky Data survey revealed that 50% of the Britons support another referendum, which gives UK voters the choice between the eventual deal suggested by the government, no deal – or remaining in the EU, with only 40% to say that shouldn’t be a second vote.

Will another referendum take place?

Sky Data interviewed 1.466 Sky customers online between July 20 and 23 across the UK and the results showed that only 10% of them believe that UK government is doing a good job in the Brexit negotiations and half of them think that the Britons should vote again to remain or not in the EU.

The majority of the interviewers stated that the outcome of the Brexit negotiations will be ominous for Britain while 78% of them believe that the government is doing a bad job of negotiating Brexit. What is more, 24% is happy with Theresa May’s performance as prime minister while 74% is dissatisfied.

May’s meeting with Macron

Theresa May will make an attempt to persuade the French President on August 3 to provide his assistance in the Brexit talks or risk a no deal scenario where European jobs and economy will be also affected. According to the Financial Times, the British Prime Minister will request from Mr Macron to cooperate with German Chancellor Angela Merkel towards “an unprecedented EU association agreement with the UK.” UK diplomats think that the German Chancellor is willing to interfere in the negotiations asking for a smoother approach from the EU side.

Except for Theresa May, Jeremy Hunt, UK foreign secretary, met his French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian, in Paris yesterday, and Dominic Raab, the Brexit secretary, will meet the French Europe minister, Nathalie Loiseau, tomorrow. During yesterday’s meeting, Jeremy Hunt mentioned that the risk of a no deal scenario is increasing and the EU has to work towards a workable outcome in order to avoid financial consequences. More in detail, the UK foreign secretary said: “France and Germany have to send a strong signal to the commission that we need to negotiate a pragmatic and sensible outcome that protects jobs on both sides of the Channel. If it became harder for European businesses to access finance, that is far from trivial. If [the City] became a low-tax, low-regulation, offshoot fully outside the EU, it would find a way to thrive. But for European businesses, the impact would be profound.”

Withdrawal agreement and Northern Ireland – Ireland border

The European Parliament’s Brexit Steering Group supports as precondition that the withdrawal agreement (WA) should include a viable backstop for the Northern Ireland – Ireland border. According to the EP, the “backstop must avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, protect the Good Friday Agreement and safeguard the integrity of the single market, customs union and common commercial policy.” In case the above will not take place, the EP will not approve the WA.

All in all, the time is now limited for the UK Prime Minister who is attempting to gain the support of France and Germany to soften the EU’s stance at a summit of EU leaders in Salzburg in September. It seems though that a no-deal or an unfavorable deal for Britain is most likely as several issues still remain open while the EC has started informing the Member States and private parties to be prepared for all outcomes of the UK withdrawal from the EU.

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