Between the prospect of a British withdrawal from the European Union without a negotiated agreement, and that of a deal that would be bad for the EU, which British parliamentarians appear to be pushing for, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel would prefer the former. “Clarity requires me to say that between a ‘no deal’ and a ‘bad deal’ I prefer a ‘no deal’, which will have the merit of clarity and responsibility,”Prime Minister Michel said on Tuesday, with the theoretical Brexit date, 29 March, just weeks away. He was addressing students at the Collège of Europe in Bruges, at the inauguration of a new building named after former Belgian Prime Minister Paul-Henri Spaak, who co-founded the private university 70 years ago with other “Fathers of Europe”.
Mr. Michel stressed the importance of the backstop, the guarantee included in the withdrawal agreement to avoid a return to a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Some British MPs oppose the backstop, fearing that Britain would remain tied to the EU if this safety net is activated.
“The backstop is not a detail, both for guaranteeing peace in Ireland and for the integrity of the domestic market, its capacity for economic development, employment and investment,” the head of Belgium’s outgoing government said.
“A good deal is on the table, but the British Parliament is trying to take us toward a bad deal,” he told the journalists present. “The British Parliament’s demands on the backstop would weaken the economic development of Europe, a risk for our businesses and our jobs.”
“We need to be firm, clear, even if there is always room for flexibility” to take certain British demands into account, he added.
Meanwhile, Mr. Michel refused to say whether he would be on the Reformist Movement (MR)’s list of candidates for election to the European Parliament, noting that discussions were still ongoing within his party.