UK warned to stop ‘whining’ and present Brexit plan
Dutch prime minister vows to do ‘absolutely nothing’ until UK outlines departure timetable
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte (right) greets president of the European Council Donald Tusk in The Hague, on Friday. Photograph: Bart Maat/EPA
As Brexit talks go down to the wire, Europe has warned London to stop “whining” and present its preferred EU departure plan.
Some 995 days after the Brexit referendum, following a blizzard of Westminster votes, Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte spoke for many EU colleagues with a vow to do “absolutely nothing” until the UK outlined its plan, and timetable, to leave the EU.
“What good is it to continue whining at each other for months, while you’ve been spinning in that circle for two years now?” said Mr Rutte after the British parliament voted to postpone the Brexit on Thursday.
German business leaders, at a high-level meeting with chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday, reiterated their solidarity with Ireland but conceded UK dithering made it impossible to plan for a post-Brexit future. But ongoing uncertainty, they agreed, was no excuse for losing nerve.
“I think it is as important as before that the EU 27 remain together, that’s something we have to acknowledge despite all regret that the English are leaving at all,” said Dieter Kempf, head of the German business lobby group BDI. “The trade relationships of EU states are important. One cannot allow oneself to be divided. The EU knows what it wants . . . those who don’t are the English parliamentarians.”
Dr Merkel made no reference to Brexit after the Munich meeting with business leaders. On Wednesday she said EU hopes for an orderly British departure remained unchanged but that this week’s Westminster votes “naturally reduce the options”.
“Now it is up to the British side to establish whether one wants an agreement or one wants to leave without an agreement,” she added.
Meanwhile her minister of state for Europe, Michael Roth, admitted Germany is “at the limits of what’s bearable”. “We have already changed the exit agreement once to suit Britain,” said Mr Roth. “We aren’t getting any clear views from Britain on what they want, only what they don’t want.”
Germany’s wholesale and foreign trade association (BGA) has warned its members are no longer signing long-term export contracts, meaning “this waiting game has no winners”.
Leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg disagreed in Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine daily, saying he found the idea of leaving the EU without a deal “exciting”.
His most enthusiastic fans in Germany, the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), continue to blame the Brexit chaos on German intransigence.
“If you are looking for someone to blame then look to Mrs Merkel,” said Jörg Meuthen, AfD co-leader, on a popular German television talk show.
The chancellor “forced” ex-prime minister David Cameron into holding a Brexit referendum, said Mr Meuthen, because the UK saw her 2015-2016 migration chaos “and said: ‘We don’t want that in Great Britain.’”
Fellow panellist Jean Asselborn, Luxembourg’s foreign minister, intervened to remind viewers how the UK’s Brexit immigration debate hinged less on warzone refugees but EU migrants “needed in Great Britain for the economy”.