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UK's extension request to be treated "with all seriousness"

UK's extension request to be treated "with all seriousness"

Donald Tusk - © European Union 2019 - source EP

(STRASBOURG) - Addressing the European Parliament as EU Council president for the last time, Donald Tusk told MEPs the EU would treat the UK's extension request 'with all seriousness', and is ready for every scenario.

At the plenary session, MEPs discussed the conclusions of last week's October EU summit with Council president Donald Tusk and Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

Mr Tusk used his introductory speech to condemn Turkish unilateral military action in north-east Syria and he called on Turkey to withdraw its troops and respect international humanitarian law.

He also confirmed the EU's solidarity with Cyprus, faced with Turkey's illegal drilling off its coast. On the Brexit deal, he stressed that "a no-deal scenario will never be our decision".

On the "difficult debate on enlargement", President Tusk called the decision not to start accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania "a mistake".

In his outgoing speech as Commission president, Mr Juncker stated that the Brexit deal provides legal certainty and complies with Parliament's wishes.

On the EU budget, he highlighted that, despite imminent difficulties, the Council's latest proposals remain unacceptable: "you cannot shape Europe with 1% of GDP".

All the Parliament's political group leaders stressed that condemning Turkey is not enough and asked for the Council, the Commission or the member states to take specific action.

A majority among them reaffirmed that having a Brexit deal for an orderly departure of the United Kingdom is a positive development, confirmed that Parliament should do its part only after the agreement is ratified in the UK, and stressed the importance of enough time for elected representatives in the UK and the EU alike to review the deal.

Most speakers who talked about the EU's long-term budget asked the Council to confirm appropriate funding for the ambitious goals set by Parliament and President-elect von der Leyen. On the subject of enlargement in the Western Balkans, almost all speakers condemned the failure to reach unanimity in the European Council, despite overwhelming support across the EU.

In his closing remarks, Mr Tusk said that given what he "heard in this debate", he has "no doubt we should treat the UK request for extension with all seriousness".

Also at the debate, the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier told MEPs that, as the European Parliament would need to give its consent to any Brexit agreement, it was important that by that time, MEPs would need to know "without ambiguity" exactly what the UK wants, underlining that the latest withdrawal agreement agreed with Boris Johnson was the only one that was possible.

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