'I think we should be friends' - European Council President publishes letter from 6-yr-old UK girl

'I think we should be friends' - European Council President publishes letter from 6-yr-old UK girl

Update: European Council President Donald Tusk posted an image on Instagram, said to be from a six-year-old girl named Sophie from London.

It read: “Dear Mr Tusk, I live in Britain. I know we are leaving the EU. But I think we should be friends. From Sophie, aged 6.”

The bottom of the note read “I have drawn you a unicorn”, alongside a sketch of the mythical beast.

View this post on Instagram

We will always be friends, Sophie ❤️

A post shared by Donald Tusk (@donaldtusk) on

“Unicorn” has become a slang term used to describe the perceived fanciful ideas of various sides during Brexit negotiations.

Last year Ivan Rogers, the former UK ambassador to the EU, claimed UK hopes of finding a technical solution to the Irish border issue was viewed in Europe as a “fantasy island unicorn model”.

In the post, Mr Tusk responded: “We will always be friends, Sophie.”

Earlier: 'We remain determined to avoid a hard border, ' says European Commission

Asked at a Brussels press conference how the Brexit process will go forward, European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said: “Look to London, not Brussels, for answers.”

He added: “We haven’t received any request for an extension. Should there be a UK reasoned request for an extension, the EU27 will stand ready to consider it and decide by unanimity. The EU27 will decide, giving also priority to the need to ensure the functioning of the EU institutions and taking into account the reasons for and duration of any extension.”

Asked whether the EU would reciprocate the UK’s plan to apply a zero-tariff regime at the Irish border, Mr Schinas said: “We have seen these UK plans and we will analyse them.

“We remain determined to avoid a hard border. The EU will ensure the integrity of the single market and customs union under all scenarios.

“We are convinced that since no other solutions have been identified, the backstop is currently the only one available option to fully address the challenges of the land border.”

Mr Schinas said that the EU would “analyse” the UK’s offer on tariffs in a no-deal scenario to see whether they conform with World Trade Organisation law and the EU’s rights.

But he said that the EU had already made clear that after a no-deal Brexit, imports from the UK would be subject to tariffs at the same level applied to other non-EU countries under the WTO’s Most Favoured Nation (MFN) rules.

Frans Timmermans and Michel Barnier in the European Parliament today
Frans Timmermans and Michel Barnier in the European Parliament today

“The differential treatment of trade on the island of Ireland and other trade between the EU and UK raises concerns,” said Mr Schinas.

“In the event of no-deal, the Union has already made clear that it will apply its normal third-country trade regime to all trade with the UK, and accordingly charge MFN tariffs on imports from the UK into the EU.

“This is essential for the EU in order to remain a reliable trade partner to the rest of the world, including upholding internationally-agreed rules on global trade.”

Ukip MEP Gerard Batten said the EU should not grant an extension to article 50.

He told MEPs: “In the UK we have a government and a parliament that does not want to leave the European Union and it intends to betray the democratic decision of the referendum.”

He added: “Do nothing and ensure that the UK is ejected from the European Union on the 29th of March.

“Do yourselves a favour, do us a favour, and kick us out.”

Update: German MEP Hans-Olaf Henkel called for European politicians to “stop bashing London”.

He said: “I think the Commission now has a historic chance to do something: help the Remainers in Britain to go for a second referendum…”

Applause broke out, along with one heckler who shouted “rubbish”.

He continued: “…and help the Brexiteers to change their mind so they can save their face.”

“The European Union will never be complete without Britain,” he added.

Earlier: Guy Verhofstadt implores UK MPs to put 'queen and country' first as Farage urges EU to veto Brexit delay

European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans told MEPs in Strasbourg: "I don't see any better solution than the Withdrawal Agreement with all the clarifications given."

He said: "Brexit is very harmful to the United Kingdom and to the European Union, but it is our duty, on the basis of a vote of the British people, to work towards a Brexit that does as little harm as possible.

"This position will not change, but today we are in the hands of the British political system.

"They should tell us where they want to go from now. The solution will have to come from London and we will take it from there."

Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament's Brexit co-ordinator, called for the UK to put "queen and country" before party politics, appealing for certainty from the House of Commons.

'I think we should be friends' - European Council President publishes letter from 6-yr-old UK girl

He told MEPs in Strasbourg: "That is what we need and so I am against every extension, whether an extension of one day, one week, even 24 hours, if it's not based on a clear opinion of the House of Commons for something. That we know what they want."

He added: "Please make up your minds in London, because this uncertainty cannot continue. Not for us, not for Britain and certainly not for our citizens."

Nigel Farage told MEPS: "We have had enough, we have seen the snarling anger towards our country of Mr Verhofstadt, the bureaucratic intransigence of Mr Barnier, the constant stream of insults that come from Mr Tusk, and we are of one mind: we don't want to be governed by you; we want to govern ourselves."

Responding to Mr Barnier's estimation of how long negotiations about the EU-UK future relationship could take, he said: "We don't want to waste four more years of our life, four more years of agony."

He called for any extension request from Britain to be vetoed, adding: "We leave, and both you and we can get on with the rest of our lives. That's the only neat solution ahead of us."

Update: The EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier, told the European Parliament that the Withdrawal Agreement reached last November "is and will remain the only available treaty".

In agreeing to draw up documents clarifying the terms of the Agreement in Strasbourg on Monday, "we went as far as we possibly could in order to help the UK Government get the support of the House of Commons", said Mr Barnier.

Mr Barnier said it was now "the responsibility of the UK" to suggest a way forward.

"They have to tell us what it is they want for their future relationship," he told the European Parliament.

Nigel Farage
Nigel Farage

"What will their choice be, what will be the line they will take? That is the question we need a clear answer to now. That is the question that has to be answered before a decision on a possible further extension.

"Why would we extend these discussions? The discussion on Article 50 is done and dusted. We have the Withdrawal Agreement. It is there.

"That is the question asked and we are waiting for an answer to that."

Mr Barnier added: "We are at a critical point. The risk of no-deal has never been higher. That is the risk of an exit - even by accident - by the UK from the EU in a disorderly fashion.

"I urge you please not to under-estimate the risk or its consequences."

Mr Barnier told the European Parliament that the EU and its institutions are ready to deal with the impact of a no-deal Brexit.

And he said that when people asked him if he was disappointed by the UK Parliament's rejection of the Withdrawal Agreement he helped negotiate, he said: "We remain respectful of the UK and its people.

"We remain determined, calm and united and we will remain respectful, calm, determined and united until the end of this extraordinary negotiation. We shall defend the Union's interests and those of its citizens."

Earlier: 'This impasse can only be solved in the UK' - Michel Barnier on next step for Brexit

The European Union has said the next steps in the Brexit process can only be decided at Westminster.

Theresa May's agreement with Brussels was voted down by MPs last night.

The House of Commons will decide later if it wants to rule out leaving the EU without a deal.

Speaking in Strasbourg, where the European Parliament has gathered for a debate on Brexit ahead of the next European Council summit, the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier said: "Again the House of Commons says what it doesn't want.

'I think we should be friends' - European Council President publishes letter from 6-yr-old UK girl

"Now this impasse can only be solved in the UK."

As the European Parliament began a debate on Brexit, MEP and former Ukip leader Nigel Farage tweeted: "Have just come out of a meeting with (European Commission chief Brexit negotiator Michel) Barnier and he is scared of a no-deal WTO Brexit.

"There is also huge pressure on Mrs May, if she demands an extension, to give a firm reason why. There will be no blank cheque for it.

"I'll be speaking in the European Parliament shortly," he added.

The European Parliament's Brexit co-ordinator, Guy Verhofstadt, said it is too early to talk about delaying the UK's departure.

He said: "I don't think that anybody in the European Union really wants to go into a discussion about an extension. First of all, there is no clear position from the House of Commons."

Warning over no-deal tariff regime

A new tariff regime on EU products in the case of a no-deal Brexit will act as a “sledgehammer” to the UK economy, business has warned.

The new levies, to be imposed from the day after a March 29 Brexit if MPs vote for a no-deal withdrawal, would force up prices on EU imports including cars and many food products.

(Andrew Matthews/PA)
(Andrew Matthews/PA)

The unilateral and temporary regime includes levies of 10.6% on European cars and trucks which had previously been free of tariffs, potentially increasing the cost of a typical family hatchback by around £1,500. Car parts would face no extra tariffs to avoid disruption to supply chains.

But tariffs will be slashed on imports from outside the EU, potentially lowering prices on goods from countries like the USA and China.

The CBI director-general Carolyn Fairbairn in the UK told BBC Radio 4’s Today: “This tells us everything that is wrong with a no-deal scenario.”

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

- Press Association

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