EU and UK leaders seek Brexit deal in Belgium


It was the Brexit summit that never was, as two-days of talks between European Union and British leaders conclude in Brussels.

CGTN’s Mariam Zaidi reports.

Follow Mariam Zaidi on Twitter @zaidi_mariam

On Wednesday night, Brexit proceedings had uncharacteristically wrapped early. No discussions came on No Deal Brexit preparedness. It wasn’t the message E.U. leaders wanted to send at this stage, with talks stalled on the Irish border issue.

So with their free night, the Heads of Belgium, France, Germany, and Luxembourg were snapped downtown in Brussels drinking beer.

“Actually, there’s a lack of urgency. The fact that four leaders went out on the grand place having drinks together at 11 o’clock showed that no one really expected results from this summit,” said Syed Kamall, Co-Chair of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group for the European Parliament.

“But what needs to happen is that E.U. leaders need to say publicly, what some of them are saying privately, that the way the Irish backstop is currently formulated is not acceptable to the Unionist community in NI neither the UK and they have to find a way around that.”

With Brexit on the back-burner, attention focused on other key E.U. issues, such as migration.

“We are seeking a further 3 billion for the trust fund so that we can have at least 40 billion for a Marshall plan for Africa,” President of the  European Parliament Antonio Tajani said. “We could find a compromise with the Visegrad countries with these investments: if you don’t accept the re-locations, you pay more.”

But Tajani’s plan wasn’t so well received by the president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker. Instead, on illegal migration, the E.U. would continue work to facilitate returns.

“Don’t make the mistake to think this is only about migration.,” Juncker said. “We have this external investment program, we have Africa trust fund and we have to build a stronger economic relations with our African friends.”

A Euro summit was also convened at lunchtime, but Italy’s budget proposals for the coming year were not discussed.

“The more time goes on, the more I’m convinced the Italian budget is very beautiful,” Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said.

Conte even said that Germany’s Angela Merkel was impressed by Italy’s structural reforms, despite critics saying their proposals flew in the face of E.U. rules on spending.

Also left out of the summit was the widely reported offer to extend the U.K.’s Brexit transition period by one year. However, the E.U. leaders suggested they would consider it.

In addition, British Prime Minster Theresa May said the U.K. was not proposing an extension, but remained confident that a deal would be done on time.