After passing of Brexit Bill, Theresa May could theoretically trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty any time this week or the end of the month. (Photo: iStockphoto)

Macron Issues Veiled Threat on Post-Brexit Talks: Brexit Update

(Bloomberg) -- European Union leaders endorsed the Brexit deal. Now the question is what they will do if the U.K. Parliament rejects it.

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Key Developments

  • EU leaders endorsed the deal at a summit in Brussels
  • Leaders were united in saying this is the best deal on offer, and it can’t be renegotiated if the U.K. Parliament rejects it
  • Hunt says the math in Parliament is challenging

Macron’s Threat (4:08 p.m.)

French President Emmanuel Macron had a veiled threat for the U.K.: give us concessions over the sensitive issue of fish or end up trapped in the EU’s customs union.

Macron was asked what bargaining chips the EU has in fishing negotiations going forward. He raised the prospect that if Britain doesn’t give the bloc what it wants, then trade negotiations won’t prosper and the U.K. would end up stuck in the limbo that Brexiteers most dread -- via the so-called Irish backstop.

“The future relationship doesn’t just reflect fishing, but other things that matter to Theresa May," Macron said. “I have no understanding that the intention of Theresa May and those who support her is to stay in a customs union.”


U.K.’s Hunt Sees ‘Challenging’ Math in Parliament (2:58 p.m.)

“The arithmetic at the moment is looking challenging,” but a lot can change over the next few weeks, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said in an interview on the “Andrew Marr Show” on BBC on Sunday.

He urged his colleagues in Parliament to support the deal, saying the U.K. got "between 70 percent and 80 percent" of what it wanted, and that the deal mitigates most of the negative impact of Brexit. “We will not be significantly worse or better off, but we will get our sovereignty back,” he said.

He also said that a second referendum would make those who voted for Brexit very angry, adding that the British people want the government “to get on and deliver Brexit.”

Theresa May ‘Very Tenacious,’ Dutch Premier Says (2:04 p.m.)

EU leaders were unified in their message to the British public that this is the only deal available. But Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte went one better, saying if anything else had been on offer, Prime Minister Theresa May would have won it.

"If there was anything better I can tell you Theresa May would have gotten that, because she has fought very hard, she was very stubborn, and she always is, in a positive sense, very tenacious," Rutte told reporters.

Austria’s Kurz: ‘Take-It-or-Leave-It Situation’ (2:02 p.m.)

“This is a take-it-or-leave-it situation," Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz told reporters in Brussels. "We are well prepared for all scenarios," he said.

Are You Sad About Brexit? (1:50 p.m.)

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May was asked if she shared the sadness that other EU leaders including Chancellor Angela Merkel had expressed about the divorce.

"No," replied May. She added that she understood that some leaders were sad, and some at home, too.

A Day of ‘Dignity and Sadness,’ France Macron Says (1:47 p.m.)

French President Emmanuel Macron called it a day of “dignity and sadness.”

Brexit has been a lesson that “it takes much longer, is far more painful, and is far more costly to leave the union than it was promised by some,” Macron said.

May Promises to Sell Brexit Deal in Coming Weeks (1:33 p.m.)

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May promised to sell the Brexit agreement in Parliament and beyond over the next few weeks. "I look forward to that campaign," she said.

“I am focusing on ensuring that I make the case for this deal to members of parliament,” May said. She was asked again if she would quit but did not directly answer.

“Not backing this deal will take us back to more division and more uncertainty,” May said. “It’s the only possible deal,” she said. There should not be a second referendum, she added.

May: Confident of Having Best Deal Available (1:30 p.m.)

“I will take this deal back to the House of Commons confident that we have achieved the best deal available and full of optimism about the future of our country,” U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May said.

“This is a good deal that delivers Brexit for the British people and I hope every member of Parliament sees that and sees the importance of that,” she said.

Varadkar: A Better Deal Can’t Be Negotiated (1:25 p.m.)

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar was at pains to point out that it’s “this deal or no deal.”

“Any other deal really only exists in other people’s imaginations,” he said, adding that none of the alternatives floated in the U.K. would get the backing of the other 27 EU governments. He said leaders had made the “conscious decision” not to discuss any alternative plan. “We don’t want to create the false impression to the U.K. that a better deal can be negotiated,” he said. “There can’t.”

U.K.’s May Explains Deal to British People (1:19 p.m.)

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May said the deal means the end of free movement of people, as well as the control of taxpayers’ money and of lawmaking and courts. It delivers a better deal on agriculture and in fishing, she told reporters in Brussels.

Varadkar: Alternative to This Deal Is No Deal (1:15 p.m.)

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said there is no alternative to the Brexit deal endorsed by EU governments. The bloc should continue planning for a no-deal scenario, he said.

Pellegrini: ‘Many Scenarios in Front of Us’ (1:11 p.m.)

“Of course it depends what will be the decision of the British Parliament because there are many, many scenarios in front of us, but I hope there will be a positive vote in next weeks,” Slovak Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini said in an interview in Brussels.

EU’s Barnier: ‘Necessary Step to Build Trust’ (1:09 p.m.)

“This deal is a necessary step to build the trust between the U.K. and the EU that we need for the next phase of this unprecedented and ambitious partnership,” EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said. “Now it’s time for everybody to take their responsibility.”

Czech Republic’s Babis: ‘Good Deal for Everybody’ (1:07 p.m.)

“I think the British Parliament will approve it because this is really a good deal for everybody,” Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said in an interview in Brussels. “I don’t expect that they will vote no, but if in the worst case it would happen then of course the European Council will sit together and think how to continue,” he said.

Austria’s Kurz: ‘There Will Be No Further Leeway’ (1:05 p.m.)

“It is important that everyone in the U.K. is aware of the fact that this agreement is the final result,” Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz told reporters in Brussels. “It will definitely not be renegotiated and there will be no further leeway.”

Varadkar: No Plan B if Deal Not Ratified (12:55 p.m.)

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said there isn’t a plan B in case the Brexit deal isn’t ratified. EU leaders chose not to discuss alternatives, Varadkar told reporters in Brussels. There cannot be a renegotiation of the agreement, he said.

Juncker Urges U.K. Parliament Not to Reject Deal (12:41 p.m.)

“I’m totally convinced that this is the only deal possible,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said. “Those who do think by rejecting the deal that they would have a better deal will be disappointed in the first seconds after the rejection of this deal.”

EU’s Tusk: Britain, EU to Remain Friends (12:39 p.m.)

“Regardless of how it will all end, one thing is certain: We will remain friends until the end of days, and one day longer,” European Union President Donald Tusk said.

EU’s Juncker: ‘Only Deal Possible’ (12:33 p.m.)

The Brexit deal announced in Brussels is “the only deal possible,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said. “I’m inviting those who have to ratify this deal in the House of Commons to take this in consideration: this is the best deal possible for Britain, this is the best deal possible for Europe -- this is the only deal possible,” Juncker told reporters in Brussels.

EU’s Tusk: Difficult Process of Ratification Ahead (12:25 p.m.)

Announcing the EU-27’s endorsement of the Brexit agreement, European Union President Donald Tusk said: “Ahead of us is the difficult process of ratification as well as further negotiation.” He added: “We will remain friends.”

Merkel: Historic Day That Sends Ambivalent Signals (12:20 p.m)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called it a historic day which sends ambivalent signals.

Juncker: Russians Didn’t Organize Brexit (11:40 a.m.)

Asked by a Russian state TV reporter if he thought the Brexit vote was influenced by a subversive Russian plot, an accusation coming from the U.K., Jean-Claude Juncker said: “No, no, Britain has taken the decision, not Russians.”

Labour Meets on Second Referendum Campaign (11:14 a.m.)

Labour’s Treasury spokesman John McDonnell held talks with officials campaigning for a new referendum on the Brexit deal last week, the Sunday Times newspaper reported. With all eyes on what could happen if Parliament rejects the deal, the campaign for a so-called people’s vote is gathering pace. For it to have any chance of success, it will need Labour backing in the Commons.

Labour has evolved its position on a second referendum, and is now open to the idea, after initially ruling it out.

Renegotiating Text ‘Impossible’ (10:45 a.m.)

European Parliament President Antonio Tajani said that the assembly, which has a veto over the Brexit deal, is backing the agreement struck last week and is poised to formally approve it in February or March. The real hurdle of course isn’t the Strasbourg-based assembly, but the House of Commons in London. Asked whether improvements to the deal would be possible after a potential rejection at the U.K Parliament, Tajani said a re-negotiation wasn’t possible.

“It is impossible to reopen the text,” he told reporters.

EU Leaders Endorse Deal (10:35 a.m.)

Leaders back the deal, European Union President Donald Tusk says in a tweet.



Juncker Trusts Wise Parliament (9:40 a.m.)

Macron Issues Veiled Threat on Post-Brexit Talks: Brexit Update

EU leaders were united in saying that the deal is the best on offer. But Juncker offered perhaps a glimmer of hope for those who expect Theresa May to be back in Brussels asking for tweaks after the U.K. Parliament rejects it.

"It’s the best deal possible and the European Union will not change its fundamental position when it comes to this issue so I do think that the British parliament -- because this is a wise parliament -- will ratify this deal."

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz had a clear message for U.K. politicians: “It is important that everyone in the U.K. is aware of the fact that this agreement is the final result. It will definitely not be renegotiated and there will be no further leeway.”

Barnier’s Warning (9:10 a.m.)

Macron Issues Veiled Threat on Post-Brexit Talks: Brexit Update

Chief negotiator Michel Barnier issued what sounded like a warning to rebellious U.K. lawmakers about the Brexit deal.

"This deal is a necessary step to build the trust between the U.K. and the EU that we need for the next phase of this unprecedented and ambitious partnership," he told reporters.

"Now it’s time for everybody to take their responsibility," he said.

’No Victors Here Today’ (9 a.m.)

Macron Issues Veiled Threat on Post-Brexit Talks: Brexit Update

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he expects the U.K. Parliament to back May’s deal, which he said was an ”acceptable outcome,” that has left no one a clear winner.

"I’m absolutely confident that Theresa May has everything now on the table to argue for a majority in the British Parliament," he told reporters. "I don’t expect a no vote I expect a yes vote and this is the deal on the table. I don’t think there’s anything more.”

What if Parliament Rejects it ? (8:45 a.m.)

Macron Issues Veiled Threat on Post-Brexit Talks: Brexit Update

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said that if the U.K. Parliament rejects the Brexit deal, then several scenarios emerge. One of them could be a request to renegotiate, she told reporters. So far, EU leaders have been clear that this is the final deal and it can’t be reopened.

“Everything could happen, at least four possible scenarios could be in place but it’s up to the British side about what path to choose," she told reporters. "There could be a return for the vote of people; could be new elections; it could be request for renegotiations; there is at least four I could calculate."

Earlier:

Coming Up:

Around 12 p.m. Closing news conferences; including one by May

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