Bri­tain pres­sured to be­gin pull­out

The Dominion Post - - World - BEL­GIUM

Euro­pean lead­ers have made it clear to Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron that they will not tol­er­ate an in­def­i­nite de­lay to the start of the process of ar­rang­ing Bri­tain’s exit from the Euro­pean Union.

Politi­cians in Brus­sels queued up yes­ter­day to urge Cameron to push ahead with the Ar­ti­cle 50 process as early as possible.

Euro­pean Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Jean-Claude Juncker set the tone for Cameron’s fi­nal EU sum­mit by an­nounc­ing that he had banned his of­fi­cials from hav­ing con­tact with Bri­tish diplo­mats over Bri­tain’s new re­la­tion­ship with the EU un­til the ar­ti­cle had been trig­gered.

‘‘Mar­ried or di­vorced, but not some­thing in be­tween,’’ Xavier Bet­tel, Lux­em­bourg’s prime min­is­ter, said. ‘‘We are not on Face­book with ‘It’s com­pli­cated’ as a sta­tus.’’

Bel­gian Prime Min­is­ter Charles Michel reached for the same mar­i­tal metaphor. ‘‘You can’t say, ‘I want a di­vorce but I will live with you for a while un­til I make my mind up’.’’

With Nicola Stur­geon, Scot­land’s first min­is­ter, due to ar­rive in Brus­sels to open talks over a separate ne­go­ti­a­tion aimed at keep­ing Scot­land in the EU, Michel warned that the price of Cameron’s bet could in­clude the breakup of the United King­dom it­self.

‘‘He took a very big risk with the ref­er­en­dum. Now there is a bill for the UK, in­clud­ing the sit­u­a­tion with Scot­land. It will be very dif­fi­cult to keep the UK united.’’

Michel echoed the hard line taken by most other Euro­pean lead­ers that the UK should be shown to have suf­fered dam­ag­ing con­se­quences, to pre­vent oth­ers from seek­ing to leave.

‘‘We can­not send the mes­sage that Bri­tain can be out of Europe with­out any in­con­ve­nience and en­joy­ing all the ben­e­fits.’’

In a sign of the com­ing eco­nomic com­pe­ti­tion be­tween the UK and its for­mer part­ners, he in­vited com­pa­nies wor­ried about the vote’s im­pact to re­lo­cate.

‘‘Brexit means prob­lems for com­pa­nies wor­ried about the fu­ture. It may be time to go to Bel­gium,’’ he said. ‘‘They are wel­come.’’

Cameron flew home from Brus­sels be­fore a meet­ing be­tween the other 27 EU lead­ers, at which they were to start lay­ing out their ne­go­ti­at­ing po­si­tion with Bri­tain.

The new Bri­tish prime min­is­ter, set to be an­nounced on Septem­ber 9, will not be in­vited to a spe­cial sum­mit in Bratislava, Slo­vakia that month. There is no sign yet that the 27 lead­ers are ready to talk about fu­ture mi­gra­tion curbs.

In Brus­sels, se­nior fig­ures are di­vided over whether Cameron should have been given more con­ces­sions when he pressed for mi­gra­tion con­trols in an­swer to Bri­tish vot­ers’ con­cerns over record in­ward flows of eco­nomic mi­grants from a eu­ro­zone in cri­sis.

Cameron was warned off ask­ing for firm quo­tas by An­gela Merkel, the Ger­man chan­cel­lor, in a key speech on im­mi­gra­tion re­form in Novem­ber 2014. His de­ci­sion to rely in­stead on a pack­age of re­stric­tions to mi­grants’ ben­e­fits is re­garded by many as a key mis­cal­cu­la­tion. Vot­ers did not be­lieve it would sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce num­bers.

‘‘Many peo­ple did not see the re­peated Bri­tish warn­ings about los­ing the ref­er­en­dum as cred­i­ble,’’ one EU diplo­mat ad­mit­ted. ‘‘They did not be­lieve that it would be lost on free move­ment and mi­gra­tion. Peo­ple didn’t take it any­thing like se­ri­ously enough.’’

A com­mis­sion source de­fended its re­fusal to be more flex­i­ble over im­mi­gra­tion. ‘‘There was a strong camp who said the set­tle­ment on free move­ment went too far, was too gen­er­ous. It was al­ready al­most un­ac­cept­able to many coun­tries.’’

Mean­while, for­mer shadow busi­ness sec­re­tary An­gela Ea­gle is emerg­ing as the unity candidate to chal­lenge for the lead­er­ship of Bri­tain’s Labour Party, af­ter MPs over­whelm­ingly backed a vote of no con­fi­dence in Jeremy Cor­byn.

In an un­prece­dented dis­play of de­fi­ance, Cor­byn re­fused to quit de­spite three-quar­ters of his MPs back­ing the no-con­fi­dence mo­tion in his lead­er­ship, and a grow­ing exodus of shadow min­is­ters.

Of Labour’s 229 MPs, 172 said they had no con­fi­dence in Cor­byn. Only 40 sup­ported him; four spoilt their bal­lot pa­pers; and 13 did not take part in the se­cret vote.

The tally of front­benchers and aides to have quit their posts has grown to al­most 60. The Labour leader does not have enough loyal MPs to fill all the roles.

There were even re­ports that some MPs ap­pointed to the shadow cabi­net this week to re­place re­sign­ing col­leagues may them­selves quit.

Ea­gle, 55, is the daugh­ter of a York­shire print­worker. She read phi­los­o­phy, pol­i­tics and eco­nom­ics at the Univer­sity of Ox­ford and was Labour’s first openly les­bian MP. Her twin sis­ter, Maria, is also a Labour MP.

The Scot­tish Na­tional Party is de­mand­ing to be in­stalled as Her Majesty’s of­fi­cial op­po­si­tion, declar­ing Labour a ‘‘cri­sis-rid­den sham­bles’’ that is un­fit for the role

‘‘You can’t say, ‘I want a di­vorce but I will live with you for a while un­til I make my mind up’.’’ Bel­gian Prime Min­is­ter Charles Michel

and un­able to ful­fil its obli­ga­tions. The Scot­tish na­tion­al­ists cite rules in the par­lia­men­tary rule book that the of­fi­cial op­po­si­tion to the gov­ern­ment must be ‘‘pre­pared . . . to as­sume power’’.

Ea­gle, who re­signed as shadow busi­ness sec­re­tary and shadow first sec­re­tary of state on Tues­day, and Tom Wat­son, Labour’s influential deputy leader, are seen as the two unity can­di­dates ca­pa­ble of wrestling con­trol of the lead­er­ship from Cor­byn.

For­mer shadow home sec­re­tary Yvette Cooper is also con­sid­er­ing a bid.

PHOTO: GETTY IM­AGES

Pro­test­ers gather out­side the Houses of Par­lia­ment in Lon­don yes­ter­day to demon­strate against the Euro­pean Union ref­er­en­dum re­sult.

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