Brexit: We still have no idea what Britain actually wants, top Merkel ally says

Manfred Weber said the UK had provided 'no clarification' on its views

Jon Stone
Tuesday 06 February 2018 12:41 GMT
Leader of the EEP, Manfred Weber: We still have no idea what Britain actually wants

The British Government has still provided “no clarification” about what it actually wants to get out of Brexit, leaving the EU with “no idea” about the sort of relationship it is aiming for, a top Brussels ally of Angela Merkel has warned.

Manfred Weber, the leader of the largest group of MEPs in the European Parliament, said the UK needed “to come out with concrete proposals very soon” and complained that while Theresa May was happy to rule things out, she would not say what she actually wanted.

The German politician’s warning comes days after Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator, suggested that the Prime Minister was locked in “a domestic negotiation” with her own cabinet about what her policy actually was.

Adding to the growing mountain of publicly-voiced concern in Brussels that the UK Government is paralysed, Mr Weber told journalists at the European Parliament: “I don’t really enjoy reading newspapers, especially bought from London, about Brexit at the moment.

“Because I read, for example, ‘we don’t want a soft Brexit’, I read ‘we don’t want a hard Brexit’, I read ‘we don’t want a customs union’, I read ‘we don’t want to contribute to the EU budget in the future’. I read ‘we don’t want to accept EU standards and cannot guarantee the rights of EU citizens’ and, finally, ‘we don’t want the business sector to suffer from Brexit’.

“So I hear a lot of things which London don’t want, but for the moment I have no idea what they want. No idea, no clarification about their orientation, about what they want to achieve.

“I’m appealing to London: we cannot achieve anything with such a state of mind. The British Government needs to come out with concrete proposals very soon, time is running out and we need an orientation, what they want to achieve.”

Mr Weber is the leader of the centre-right European People’s Party group, the largest transnational group in the European Parliament. Domestically, he is a member of Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU Christian Democrats alliance.

Brussels has given the UK until the next European Council meeting in March to clarify what sort of trading relationship it wants. Downing Street was forced to clarify on Monday that the UK would not be part of any customs union with the EU, but was instead seeking a “highly streamlined customs arrangement”.

Michel Barnier, the European Commission’s chief negotiator, also said on Monday that “without a customs union and outside the single market, barriers to trade in goods and services are unavoidable”. He said it was time for the UK to “make a choice”.

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