The leaders of Europe gathered in Brussels this week to discuss the most important topics of the day: Brexit, security measures, migration, and climate change. Here are the highlights from this major event.
To begin with, we need to talk about the Brexit negotiations, as this has been without a doubt the leading topic of the summit and the one analysts were looking forward to the most. The previous meeting between UK Prime Minister Theresa May and representatives from the European Union, where May presented her plan for the United Kingdom’s exit from the bloc, did not turn out very well. As a result, analysts following the issue have speculated that we are more likely to get a hard Brexit than not. This is why at the summit many people were interested to see how things would go for Britain.
However, it appears that the issue of the Irish border continues to plague Brexit talks. Naturally, the republic of Ireland, as a member of the European Union, will require a border with Northern Ireland, which, as a part of the United Kingdom, will leave the bloc. At the same time, the Irish people and the British government would like to see no policed border between the two, as the situation is currently. This seems to be one of the core issues the EU and the UK cannot agree on. Nevertheless, May spoke about the possibility to extend the transition period for the United Kingdom, suggesting that the European Union is prepared to be patient and flexible in that regard. Yet Donald Tusk suggested that this “courtesy” would not be free and would have to be financially compensated by the United Kingdom. Theresa May’s plan to extend the transition period (which normally ends in December 2020) was met with criticism from her government, who argued that the extra months would not bring much of a resolution beyond what can be achieved in the already allotted time, but would be quite expensive, i.e. the costs outweigh the benefits of such an extension.
The talks are expected to continue next month if there is no significant progress by the end of October. However, Michel Barnier, who is the chief EU negotiator in the Brexit talks, has stated that November is already too late, since even if a deal is reached between the bloc and the United Kingdom, it would take months to ratify all of the legislation necessary, so the March 29 deadline will likely be missed.
Aside from Brexit, European leaders also discussed improving migration policies, in particular handling refugees. Though refugee numbers have declined by 90% from what they were in 2015, many European countries still worry over them. It was suggested that all EU members, not just those connected to the Middle East and North Africa by sea, should participate in solving the problem. Other than mandatory refugee quotas per country, it was suggested that some states could make financial contributions instead.
In terms of security, EU countries are moving towards better legislation against cyber attacks and implementing more uniform measures against the perpetrators. These include blocking finances and denying travel access, even between member states.
Lastly, EU leaders compared notes in preparation for a difficult fight against climate change that is likely to happen with the United States at an upcoming UN meeting in December in Poland. Donald Trump pulled out from the Paris Accord earlier, but countries are determined to try their best to limit the damage to the environment and are hoping to convince the US President to sign a new deal, even if it is more or less equivalent to the Paris one he abandoned.