Brexit grief shows Article 50 doesn't work, Flemish MEP warns

Brexit grief shows Article 50 doesn't work, Flemish MEP warns
Credit: Belga

The ongoing uncertainty around the UK's exit from the European Union shows that Article 50 is not fit for purpose, according to former Flemish Minister-President and current MEP Geert Bourgeois.

Speaking on Wednesday, Bourgeois called for changes to Article 50, which regulates the possibility of an EU member state leaving the EU, explaining that the current Brexit scenario is causing uncertainty in the economy.

"What is happening must not happen again" in the future, the former Flemish minister-president said. These comments come just days before the December 31 deadline by which the United Kingdom risks exiting the European single market without a "no-deal" agreement on its future relations with the EU.

In his view, the Brexit saga demonstrates the need to change the article in the Treaty on European Union governing the withdrawal of a member state. This state should be obliged, by activating Article 50, to say what future status it wants. It could be cooperation with the EU on the Norwegian, Turkish or Canadian model, or even according to the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO), "provided that it is clear".

"The British say: 'Brexit means Brexit', but there was no concrete proposal," Bourgeois said.

"What will happen on January 1? Will there be tariffs, import quotas, new standards? Companies are pulling their hair out! So if no agreement has been reached six months before the transition period expires, it should be automatically extended," Bourgeois proposes.

This transition period currently allows the United Kingdom, which officially left the EU on January 31, to remain in the internal market and customs union until December 31, while it negotiates its future relations with the Union.

It was established in the withdrawal agreement concluded at the end of 2019 between Europeans and British. Until the end of June, London could ask for an extension, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson always refused.

The post-Brexit negotiations on Wednesday in the hands of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Johnson, who hope to overcome the impasse on fisheries to reach an agreement before Christmas.

Access for European fishermen to British waters remains the final stumbling block in the talks, which are also almost complete, including on hitherto problematic issues such as how to settle disputes and protection measures against unfair competition.

London and Brussels hope to reach an agreement this Wednesday or Thursday, which would theoretically leave enough time for it to come into effect on January 1.  "But as always, there is nothing guaranteed," a European source warned. In the absence of an agreement, trade between the EU and London would be conducted under World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, which mean customs duties, quotas and red tape that could lead to huge traffic jams and delivery delays.

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