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Prime Minister Theresa May has promised a “new and improved” Withdrawal Agreement Bill for next month, which is to include “proposals for alignment with EU standards on workers’ rights” and environmental protection. Writing for the Sunday Times she said, “When the Withdrawal Agreement Bill comes before MPs, it will represent a new, bold offer to MPs across the House of Commons, with an improved package of measures that I believe can win new support. It will deliver a Brexit that honours the decision the British people took in the referendum with a Brexit that is good for jobs, good for our security, and which sets the whole UK on course for a bright future outside the EU.”
The Telegraph reports that a five page summary of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill was sent to Cabinet Ministers last week. According to the document, the Bill will contain a provision giving Parliament the final say before the backstop is implemented and contain an obligation on the Government to “seek” alternative arrangements to the backstop before the end of 2020. It would also incorporate an amendment proposed in March by the Labour MPs Lisa Nandy and Gareth Snell, which would give Parliament a say in the negotiation objectives of the future UK-EU relationship.
This comes as the cross-party Brexit talks ended without agreement on Friday. In a letter to the Prime Minister, the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn wrote, “I am writing to let you know that I believe the talks between us about finding a compromise agreement on leaving the European Union have now gone as far as they can,” adding, “I should reiterate that, without significant changes, we will continue to oppose the Government’s deal as we do not believe it safeguards jobs, living standards and manufacturing industry in Britain.”
Meanwhile, May launched the Conservative Party’s European Parliament election campaign in Bristol on Friday. Commenting on the end of the talks, she said, “We have not been able to overcome the fact that there is not a common position in Labour about whether they want to deliver Brexit or hold a second referendum which could reverse it,” adding, “When we come to bring the legislation forward we will think carefully about what we’ve had with these talks, the outcome of these talks, we’ll also consider whether we will have some votes to see if the ideas that have come through command a majority in the House of Commons.”
Elsewhere, Corbyn said, “We would not rule out a second referendum. But it wouldn’t be a referendum on 2016 terms, it would be a referendum to prevent a No Deal, catastrophic exit from the European Union.” Corbyn also appeared on the Andrew Marr show on Sunday, saying, “I want us to get a good deal and then have a decision of the public after that,” adding, “If we can get that through parliament, the proposals we’ve put, then I think it would be reasonable to have a public vote to decide on that in the future.” Corbyn also said he was “not staunchly against free movement [of people].”
Separately, appearing on the Andrew Marr Show yesterday, Change UK spokesman Chuka Umunna said, “I’ve come to the view that we are now at a point where we are going to need to revoke Article 50.”
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Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has called for a snap election after his Vice-Chancellor, Heinz-Christian Strache, handed in his resignation over a corruption scandal. Strache, the leader of the far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPO), which supports Kurz’s coalition government, was seen in leaked video footage discussing government contracts with a Russian investor. Kurz said, “I have suggested to the president of the republic that new elections be carried out, at the earliest possible date,” adding, “The serious part of this was the attitude towards abuse of power, towards dealing with taxpayers’ money, towards the media in this country.” Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen said that early elections would be held in September.
Italian Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the populist Lega Party, Matteo Salvini, on Saturday held a rally in Milan along with leaders of ten other Eurosceptic parties planning to create a new group in the European Parliament after this week’s elections. The participating parties included the French Rassemblement National (RN), the German Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD), and the Dutch Party for Freedom (PVV).
Elsewhere, at a rally for the European People’s Party (EPP) group held in Croatia, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, “Patriotism and Europe are not at odds with each other, nationalism is attempting to destroy Europe, and we have to fight it,” adding, “[RN leader Marine] Le Pen is standing in the first row, and says to her people ‘be proud of France, and to hell with Europe.’ We need to answer this. I will fight against this nationalism, they will not be part of the majority of [EPP leader] Manfred Weber.”
Meanwhile, European Council President Donald Tusk supported the pro-EU European Coalition at a rally in Warsaw, Poland. He said, “A secure Poland in a strong and united Europe is the most precious political value for Poles today.”
Separately, Open Europe’s Anna Nadibaidze told Al Jazeera English that the next European Parliament will see “more fragmentation,” adding, “This does not mean that far-right and populist parties will be making gains all across Europe, there are different regional variations, as in some countries parties will be consolidating their gains from 2014, rather than being a surge or a populist ‘wave.”
Ireland’s deputy Prime Minister, Simon Coveney, has said the Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the EU is “not up for renegotiation,” adding, “Even if there is a new British prime minister…the personality might change here, but the facts don’t.” Speaking to RTE this weekend, Coveney said, “There are many British politicians who don’t, quite frankly, understand the complexity of politics in Northern Ireland.” He confirmed that Ireland was continuing to prepare for a No Deal Brexit.
Elsehwere, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Arlene Foster said that the Government had “wasted time” in pursuing cross-party talks with Labour. She added, “The Government should reject the backstop and work for a sensible deal which unionists throughout the United Kingdom can support.”
A new poll from Gallup International suggests that 52% of people across EU27 think the European Commission should renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement if the UK Parliament refuses to back it, while 34% disagreed. The poll also suggests 43% of people in the UK believes Brexit is a “good thing,” for the country while 40% believe it is bad, while also suggesting that 58% of people across the EU think the UK’s departure is bad for the bloc.
In a piece for The Spectator, Open Europe’s Zoe Alipranti argues, “It would be a mistake to see these elections as a Manichean struggle for Europe between a Macron and Salvini camp,” since “The reality for the direction of the European Union is far more complicated.”
Elsewhere, in a new blog, Open Europe’s Marcus Cadier outlines the Danish political landscape, where the migration issue is as salient as ever. He notes, “The centre-left bloc has gradually switched their stance on migration policy and are now likely to win a majority of seats in the general election in June by a landslide.”
Separately, Open Europe’s Henry Newman spoke on Sky News last night about the 2016 referendum, saying, “It is very hard to argue that there was a mandate from the referendum back in 2016 for a No Deal exit. If you look at what the official Leave campaign was saying, they were saying very clearly that we’ll leave with a deal, and it’s because of that some of the proponents of Vote Leave even said, ‘It’s because we’re going to have a deal that we know that there won’t be this big economic shock.”