Gary Gibbon on Politics

Channel 4 News's political editor gives his take on the latest news and gossip from the corridors of power in Westminster and beyond.

June 29, 2016 No Comments

Brexit re-think? No one is Brussels is giving it the time of day

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EU and British flags are adjusted before the EU summit.

The most striking thing about the last 24 hours in Brussels is how virtually no one is talking about a UK re-think. Meet Remain enthusiasts in the UK, read some of the pro-Remain media and you might think there was a crack of light on this one.

There was, “very predictably,” one EU diplomat said, an immediate ‘keep all options open’ approach signalled from Chancellor Merkel’s court. That is in her nature. But last night the German Chancellor said: ” I see no possibility to reverse this. We would do well to accept this reality.”

As Patrick Wintour writes in The Guardian today – UK voted for Brexit – but is there a way back? This is being talked about in Westminster. But it could be EU partners have studied the numbers more closely than we have.

As one EU diplomat put it to me: “57% of the English voted no when you discount London. What do you tell them?  It is irreversible. And that we have noted everywhere.” The Remain MPs who talk of schemes to reverse things have constituencies that defiantly went against their views.

As I head back to London, Nicola Sturgeon heads to Brussels on what her team describe as the first of several exploratory discussions about how to stay in. The mirror image of the English result, they hope, will stir the EU to offer  the Scots continuing membership. SNP sources say while English politicians are utterly distracted by their own party politics they will make headway preparing the way for Scotland’s breakaway.

There was huge applause yesterday and a standing ovation for the SNP MEP Alyn Smith when he called on the EU not to desert Scotland. Applause there though does not always translate into a decision at the European Council.

Spain was the most outspoken critic of Scotland splintering from the UK back in 2014 and on the eve of that vote Spain’s Prime Minister Rajoy gave his most defiant cry of resistance to the idea. He has, of course, just been re-elected.

Spain worries about the existential threat to its state if Catalonia in particular were to think it could split off and get separate EU membership. It doesn’t want that kind of contagion.

Some EU observers say Madrid is nothing like the force it was in EU affairs though, weakened by the contagion of Eurozone crises and their aftermath and eminently biddable if the right compensation could be offered.

We shall see.

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