Ahead of the next European Council meeting MEPs were debating about the current priorities of the Austrian Presidency. ALDE Group leader Guy Verhofstadt urged the Commission and the Council to keep unity among the EU27 amid the last phase of Brexit negotiations.
“First of all, you must unblock the migration file, especially the Dublin regulation. The Commission tabled a proposal, the Parliament also has a clear position. How long will it take for the Council to decide on their position? The fact that the Council is not capable to reform the broken Dublin system is fueling negative sentiments in the four corners of Europe and leading to hate crimes against migrants. Nationalists and populists increase their attacks against the Union while it is not the Union but the member states who are failing.
The second task for your Council is to secure our values. Illiberalism is on the rise. And if you think that by being silent, it will go away, well forget it, it will not. Hate, intolerance, racism will become worse and worse because of your disregard. The Kaczynski government is already abusing the Schengen information system to stop democracy activists. Orbán uses European money to fund propaganda campaigns against this European Parliament. And both continue to politicize their highest courts. So what are you waiting for? Are you going to put article 7 on your agenda? I want a clear answer.
The third priority for the upcoming Council is to keep our unity on Brexit. Unity among the member states. Unity among the institutions. Unity against the insane notions of some Tory politicians the last days. Building a bridge between mainland Britain and Ireland, the latest invention of Boris Johnson who normally, colleagues, burns bridges instead of building them. Or the recent statements of Reese-Mog who tells ordinary people that their savings will be completely secure after brexit while stashing his own fortune in an Irish fund. Or foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt who, two days ago, compared the EU to the Soviet Union, which is for him quite normal as in the past he even confused Japan with China. But this time insulting not his wife, but millions of ordinary European citizens who suffered under Soviet rule.
So I think your messages coming out of the Council have to be crystal clear. Europe will never accept a future migration system that discriminates on the basis of skills and nationality, as Mr Javid proposed this morning. We will never accept an extension of this whole process. So no, Boris Johnson, we will not extend article 50 and prolong further uncertainty for citizens and businesses. Enough damage has been done!
And finally, we will never do anything that would undermine the principles of our Union. We will not trample on our project to rescue a party that is deeply divided and apparently not capable to find a common line to exit from the mess of Brexit.”