EU summit LIVE: Hypocrite Macron demands EU nations defend sovereignty while ignoring UK’s

Mateusz Morawiecki warns of 'dangerous situation' at EU summit

During interviews this morning, Mr Macron called upon nations to stand up for sovereignty amid the Turkey crisis just hours after the EU failed to acknowledge the sovereignty of the UK over Brexit and trade.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Macron have agreed to ban Brexit negotiations from today’s agenda although Express.co.uk’s Brussels correspondent has learnt the bloc will to discuss Brexit this afternoon and into the evening.

Key points

  • EU leaders will meet in Brussels to discuss further coordination on COVID-19, climate change, security and external relations.
  • EU leaders will today ask for additional sanctions to be prepared against Turkey over the country’s drilling activities
  • The United States 2020 election will be a key discussion point following the election of Joe Biden as the 46th US President.
  • Leaders will also meet for the Euro Summit on December 11.
  • Macron demands EU nations stand up for their sovereignty 

Turkey will dominate today’s talks as EU member states have struggled to reach common ground in regards to the escalating tensions with Turkey over the country’s prospecting operation for natural gas in disputed waters, which are also claimed by Cyprus and Greece.

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3.29pm update: ‘Completely unrealistic’ – Chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations slams EU deal expectations

Chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, Barrie Deas, has said it was “completely unrealistic” for the EU to expect a deal which maintained the current levels of access to fish in UK waters.

He said: “It’s much better to arrive at an agreement, and there is a deal on the table which has access.

“But it’s completely unrealistic to think given the new legal status that the UK has as an independent coastal state, that the EU can hold onto the privileges and advantages it has held over the UK for the last 40 years.”

In the event of no agreement on fisheries, he said: “If there’s no mutual access, some of our fisheries will be impacted, but the whole centre of gravity is the other way, it’s the EU fleet which fish five or six times as much as we fish in their waters.

“Until an agreement, if we’re obliged just to fish in our own waters, it’s more of a problem for the EU in terms of managing their fleets in a much smaller space and lower catch rates.”

He added: “I don’t see fishermen facing off against each other because they will be kept separate by the line down the middle of the Channel.”

3.16pm update: Boris Johnson’s weekly audience with the Queen postponed to allow him to focus on post-Brexit trade agreement

The Queen’s weekly audience with the Prime Minister was postponed this week to allow Boris Johnson to focus on the race against the clock to secure a post-Brexit trade agreement.

Mr Johnson usually telephones the monarch each Wednesday evening to update her on Government matters, but there is no record of this week’s audience in the Court Circular.

Buckingham Palace said the Queen will speak with the PM next week.

3.02pm update: Mr Sassoli did not outline if MEPs would approve the current German compromise

At a press conference following his speech in the European Council, Parliament President David Sassoli did reveal if MEPs would approve the current German compromise proposal on the rule of law, as the institution still needs time to examine it.

He said: “We will not accept any change in what negotiators have obtained.”

He added there was “a lot of serenity” on the issue in the Council.

On Brexit, he said the Parliament is prepared to examine any deal “even during the Christmas celebrations,” and would also vote on its own “emergency measures” if there is no deal.

2.55pm update: European Committee of the Regions speaks about migration

Commissioner for Home Affairs Yiva Johansson discussed the rate of migration.

She said in 2015 there were almost two million irregular arrivals, most of which were refugees.

There were 140,000 last year of which one third were refugees.

2.47pm update: Slovak Republic Prime Minister expresses hope for EU Budget deal

The Prime Minister of the Slovak Republic Igor Matovic tweeted: “Today I am optimistic on the EU budget. It would be great news if we find a reasonable solution to get everyone on board.

“For the sake of our children, I hope for as high climate ambition as possible, but at European Council we will have to aim for a realistic compromise in CO2 reduction.”

2.36pm update: Boris Johnson rejects the EU contingency plan

The UK Prime Minister has immediately rejected the proposed plan for a no-deal Brexit put forward by the EU.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said Boris Johnson would carefully look at the proposals outlined by the European Commission but would not be willing to hand power to Brussels on fishing rights.

He said: “Once we leave the end of the transition period, we will take back control of our waters and we would never accept arrangements and access to UK fishing waters that are incompatible with our status as an independent coastal state.”

2.33pm update: What does the EU no-deal contingency plan involve?

The European Union has put forward a series of measures to reduce the impact if there is no trade agreement on January 1.

The suggestions include plans for fisheries, roads and rail and planes.

The proposed measures for fisheries are:

  • Fishing rights have been one of the main stumbling blocks in the negotiations, but under the EU’s proposals, its fishing boats would continue to enjoy access to UK waters during 2021.
  • The bloc says the measures could stay in place until December 31 2021, or until a fisheries agreement with the UK has been concluded – whichever is earlier.
  • It says that reciprocal access to each other’s waters is needed to guarantee the sustainability of fisheries and the livelihoods of those who depend upon them.

The proposed measures for roads and rails are:

  • Without an agreement on the future partnership, there would be “serious disruptions” to road freight transport which could threaten public order, the commission believes.
  • Therefore it is proposing that basic connectivity for road freight and passenger transport continue for six months – if the UK confers equivalent rights to EU haulage operators.
  • The measures proposed would also ensure the Channel Tunnel can continue to operate after January 1 until other arrangements have been put in place.

The proposed measures for planes are:

  • Air traffic will be “interrupted” if there are no contingency measures in place on air transport at the end of the transition period, the commission says.
  • It has proposed a measure to allow the provision of certain air services between the UK and EU for six months.
  • It would allow air carriers from the UK to fly across the bloc without landing, make stops for non-traffic purposes and perform scheduled and non-scheduled international passenger and cargo services between points in the United Kingdom and points in the EU.
  • The commission has also proposed measures to ensure various safety certificates for products can continue to be used in EU aircraft – stopping the grounding of planes.

2.19pm update: Polish protesters attend EU summit

Several campaigners from Poland have attended the summit today in a bid to protest about democracy and the climate.

Dominika Lasota wrote in a letter addressed to Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.

In the letter seen by Politico, she wrote: “You ignited us, you united us.

“A new generation of leaders is emerging from the mess you’ve created.

“A new generation of women and youth — dancing together in the streets, putting their lives at risk are uniting large parts of our country.”

She added: “

This is all one fight. The rule of law is a lifeline for Polish democracy and the Green Deal is a lifeline for its future generations.

“Giving up either would take us further away — not closer to — achieving our shared vision of a union based on core values.”

2.13pm update: Ireland’s premier Micheal Martin says an agreement is ‘within reach’

Ireland’s Premier Michael Martin told reporters a deal is “within reach” as he arrived at the EU summit.

He said: “It makes sense to get a trade deal.

“I’m very aware of the difficulties around a level playing field, the dispute resolution mechanism and fisheries.

“I didn’t expect a breakthrough last evening.

“I think the fact that they met for quite a lengthy period of time and that frank exchange of views in itself is a good thing, and the fact that the negotiators are mandated to go back in again and try to break the logjam.”

2.05pm update: Christine Lagarde issues statement about the bank’s policy meeting

On December 10, Ms Lagarde said: “While the rebound of economic activity in the third quarter was stronger than expected and the prospects for the roll-out of vaccines are encouraging, the pandemic continues to pose serious risks to public health and to the euro area and global economies.

“The resurgence in COVID-19 cases and the associated containment measures are significantly restricting euro area economic activity, which is expected to have contracted in the fourth quarter of 2020.

“While activity in the manufacturing sector continues to hold up well, services activity is being severely curbed by the increase in infection rates and the new restrictions on social interaction and mobility.

“Inflation remains very low in the context of weak demand and significant slack in labour and product markets.

“Overall, the incoming data and our staff projections suggest a more pronounced near-term impact of the pandemic on the economy and a more protracted weakness in inflation than previously envisaged.”

She added the governing council would recalibrate its monetary policy in reaction to the uncertainty.

Further details of the measures taken by the Governing Council will be published on Thursday afternoon at 3.30pm CET (2.30pm GMT).

1.53pm update: The European Central Bank unveils several measures to help struggling economies amid Covid-19

The ECB increased the overall size of its PEPP stimulus programme by 500 billion euros to €1.85 trillion, in line with market expectations.

It also extended the scheme by 9 months to March 2022, with the aim of keeping government and corporate borrowing costs at record lows.

TD Securities’ European Head of Currency Strategy, Ned Rumpeltin, said: “For the most part the ECB delivered on reasonable expectations.

“We have seen a bit of bid pop up in the euro but nothing major…What matters now is what Lagarde says and how she says it. Especially about the euro’s strength beyond the standard boilerplate language.”

1.44pm update: The Chancellor of Austria Sebastian Kurz addresses tensions in Turkey and Brexit

Speaking from Brussels on Thursday, Mr Kurz said: “Regarding Turkey, you know our position. many months ago we were already in favour that rule of law violations are not simply tolerated, but that there have to be sanctions.

“In October many were hesitant during the Council and there was no majority for sanctions.

Now there is more understanding for our position, our position prevailed and therefore there will be additional listings, additional sanctions against Turkey today, as well as the prospect that in March we will toughen the regime, should Turkey not change their ways.

“In addition, we, of course, support the idea of a European weapons embargo against Turkey and I hope that those who are sceptical of this will also come around.

“We should not just accept that there are human rights violations in Turkey and that most of all Turkey also breaks the rule of law and this in relation to EU member states.”

Speaking about Brexit, the Austrian Chancellor added: “It no longer depends on us in the European Council to find a solution, it is solely a question of the negotiations between heads, between Ursula von der Leyen and Boris Johnson.

“But of course, I hope that we can avoid a no-deal scenario and that there will be an agreement”.

1.37pm update: European Parliament President David Sassoli introductory speech

In Mr Sassoli’s opening remarks to the European Council, he talked of respect for the “spirit and letter” of compromise.

He said: “I hope that a solution will be found tomorrow that will allow us to vote [on] the [EU budget] and the regulation on the rule of law.

Mr Sassoli added: “Obviously, we will examine the conclusions of the European Council and we hope that those will be compatible with the spirit and letter of the compromise, in particular on defending the rule of law.”

Speaking about Brexit, Mr Sassoli added: “The Parliament will have to examine the text with care and with all necessary time before agreeing on its consent by December 31.”

1.34pm update: European Central Bank President makes address

The European Central Bank Preisdent Christine Lagarde spoke to reporters at the EU summit speaking about the financial impact of the Covid-19 crisis on economies.

Ms Lagarde laid out the terms for the economic assistance amid the coronavirus pandemic.

She outlined several measures to help amid the pandemic, but said “uncertainty remains high” and added she is “ready to adjust all of our instruments”.

1.32pm update: European Parliament centre-right discusses budget compromise

The center-right European People’s Party group in the European Parliament said: “Today we are happy.”

Manfred Weber told reporters MEPs’ red lines had been respected in the German Council presidency’s compromise plan for the budget’s rule-of-law mechanism and that “the legally binding text will be secured.”

1.21pm update: The President of the Netherlands spoke at a press conference at the summit of heads of state and Government at the EU summit today.

He said the EU hopes to obtain a series of clarifications on the legal scope of the agreement reached with Hungary and Poland in order to unlock the community budget.

He added he wants to be  “absolutely sure” that this solution “does not limit in any way” the scope of the mechanism that links the disbursement of funds in respect for the rule of law.

Mr Rutte said he additionally seeks to ensure the European Commission can initiate a procedure to suspend aid retroactively if it detects a violation of the principles of the rule of law in the period of time until the European Justice rules on its legality.

1.15pm update: Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said it was very clear that the EU’s credibility was at stake.

Upon arrival, he said: “During October’s EU summit all leaders decided that if Turkey continues its delinquent behaviour, there will be consequences and we jointly set that the date — when decisions will be taken — will be this EU summit, December’s EU summit.

“It will now be made clear whether we as Europe are credible on what we among ourselves have agreed.

“Pacta sunt servanda.”

1.08pm update: ‘Divorces are never easy’

Upon arrival, Xaviar Bettel from Luxembourg said: “I still hope we will find a solution but it’s hard work.

“Europe and the UK are on both sides – but I prefer no deal to a bad deal.

“We have to have a deal where we are all able to have the guarantees that we find the proper way to get out of this situation.

“Divorces are never easy.

1.00pm update: Thursday’s agenda is mostly decided

The agenda for the EU summit on December 10 is mostly decided but EU leaders as per the published agenda.

Traditional opening remarks were delivered by Parliament President David Sassoli.

After which leaders will turn to the issue of the EU budget and recovery fund, followed by a discussion on climate targets, and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Over dinner, the leaders will begin their discussion with an update on Brexit, before turning to EU/US relations in the wake of Mr Biden’s election.

The question of tensions with Turkey will next be discussed and the customary December revisiting of the renewal of sanctions against Russia over the annexation of Crimea.

12.55pm update: Ursula von der Leyen addresses Brexit ahead of EU summit

Upon her arrival on Thursday, Mrs von der Leyen addressed the ongoing Brexit negotiations.

She said: “I had a very long conversation yesterday night with Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

“It was a good conversation but it is difficult. We are willing to grant access to the single market to our British friends – it is the largest single market in the world.

“But the conditions have to be fair. They have to be fair for our workers and for our companies, and this fine balance of fairness has not been achieved so far.

“Our negotiators are still working and we will take a decision on Sunday.”

12.48pm update: Missing leaders due to Covid-19

Several EU leaders have been forced to miss the EU summit today due to coronavirus. 

The missing leaders include the Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas and the Croatian leader Andrej Plenkovic.

Mr Ratas will be represented by Latvian leader Krisjanis Karins, while Mr Plenkovic will be substituted by Slovenian Janez Jansa. 

12.46pm update: French President addresses the contentious issue of Turkey upon arrival

French President Emmanuel Macron said he hoped to finalise a compromise on the European Union’s budget in the coming hours as he arrived at the summit.

Speaking about Turkey, Mr Macron told reporters on arrival at an EU summit in Brussels that EU countries must defend their sovereignty.

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12.42pm update: Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte arrive addressed upcoming negotiations

As the Italian PM arrived at the summit earlier today he said: “This is an important day as we are at the last leg of the negotiations.

“We hope we can move on from the veto of Poland and Hungary on the recovery fund.

“In the last few hours, we saw signals of progress so it would be important to unlock the 209 billion euros needed by our citizens.

“We hope we can do that in the next few hours.” 

12.35pm update: A minute of silence is held in honour of Valery Giscard d’Estaing

Valéry Giscard d’Estaing is a former French president, who is credited with transforming postwar France and encouraging European integration.

He died, aged 94, from complications linked to Covid-19.

Mr Giscard d’Estaing served as the leader of France from 1974 to 1981

12.29pm update: All EU27 leaders are gathering

All EU leaders are now gathering ahead of the meeting which is due to begin imminently.

11.54am update: Leaders from Luxembourg and Slovenia arrive

Prime Minister Xavier Bettel from Luxembourg and Prime Minster Janez Jansa from Slovenia have arrived.

11.47am update: European Council President Charles Michel briefly addresses Brexit

Mr Michel outlined the upcoming discussions for today.

On Brexit he said: “On Brexit, negotiations are still ongoing we trust the European Commission.

“We will have a short debrief by the Commission but we will not have a long debate by the Commission about it.

“We will continue to defend our European interests.”

Viktor Orban says he is fighting for ‘common sense’ at EU summit

11.38am update: The Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis arrives

Greece will be extremely interested in the EU’s discussion of Turkey and drilling rights today.

The EU has previously shown its support for Greece and is planning to introduce sanctions in a bid to make Turkey stop its natural gas drilling. 

11.35am update: German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives and addresses the Turkish 

The German Chancellor Angela Merkel has now arrived at the EU summit. 

She will reportedly update the EU27 about the current Brexit negotiations during the summit.

Speaking about Turkey, Ms Merkel said: “We will also talk about a number of foreign political issues, for example, the question of the relationship between the EU and Turkey, but also the extension of the sanctions for Russia in relation to Ukraine.”

11.25am update: Lithuanian and Finnish Prime Ministers address Brexit 

Lithuanian President of the Republic Gitanas Nauseda thanked the EU chief negotiator for his “tireless efforts” with Brexit.

He said he hopes to agree a deal but believes the contingency plan will be in place and countries should be ready to implement it immediately.

11.17am update: Hungary Prime Minister speaks out

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said he thinks negotiations today will be positive and that only one issue remains outstanding before a consensus can be reached.

He said today they are “fighting for the common unity” of the bloc. 

Mr Orbán added they are “fighting for the victory of common sense” and urged the EU to behave “reasonably” and for “common sense” to provide pandemic assistance for people struggling amid the pandemic.”

11.10am update: Polish Prime Minister speaks out about the outstanding tensions between the EU and Poland over the EU Budget

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said he completely supports the budgetary and law regulations.

However, he added mixing the two was “very dangerous” and would stand behind the “mechanism for attacking a country”.

He added was afraid Poland would be attacked in an unjustified way and therefore the country has worked out conclusions which allow the country to move forwards.

Mr Morawiecki added Poland had presented conclusions to prevent other countries from being attacked in this way in the future.

11.03am update: Why are Poland and Hungary opposing the EU budget?

Poland and Hungary blocked approval of the EU budget over a clause which ties funding to adherence to the rule of law within the bloc.

The proposed Covid-19 recovery fund would include €750bn (£673bn).

Hungary and Poland’s refusal meant the EU27 could not endorse the budget.

The two countries were accused of violating democratic standards enshrined in the EU’s founding treaty.

The EU is investigating both countries for undermining the independence of courts, media and non-governmental organisations.

Each nation claims the clause threatens to cost them billions of euros in EU funding.

11.00am update: EU leaders begin to arrive for the EU summit

Latvian Prime Minister Arturs Krišjānis Kariņš is one of the first to arrive.

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven arrived and addressed Brexit despite the general agreement for “no Brexit talk” during the summit.

He said the EU must “prepare for the worst” as trade talks teeter on derailment.

Mr Lofven said: “I’m a bit more gloomy today. As far as I hear, there was no progress made in recent days. It’s problematic, of course.

“That is a huge challenge we’ve always said that we are preparing for the worst… hoping for the best. And now, it seems, difficult, it’s a difficult situation.”

10.54am update: Why are relations between Turkey, Greece and Cyprus souring?

NATO member Turkey has been at odds with EU members Greece and Cyprus over the extent of their continental shelves in the east Mediterranean.

Tensions escalated in August when Turkey sent its Oruc Reis survey vessel into waters claimed by Greece.

After withdrawing the Oruc Reis vessel for what it said was maintenance ahead of a previous EU summit in October, Ankara redeployed it shortly afterwards, citing unsatisfactory results from the summit.

Ankara withdrew the vessel again last week.

Each region is competing over gas reserves and has profoundly disagreed over who has the rights to key areas of the Eastern Meditteranean.

All the nations have laid claim to overlapping areas, arguing it belongs to their respective shelves.

Relations were already tense between Turkey and Greece, relating to migrants crossing into Greece.

In recent years, huge gas reserves have been found in the waters off Cyprus, prompting the Cypriot government, Greece, Israel and Egypt to work together to make the most of the resources. 

Last year, Turkey stepped up drilling to the west of Cyprus, which has been divided since 1974.

Turkey has always argued the island’s natural resources should be shared.

In November 2019, Ankara signed a deal with Libya that Turkey said created an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) from the Turkish southern coast to Libya’s north-east coast.

Egypt said the deal was illegal and Greece said it was absurd as it failed to take account of the Greek island of Crete, midway between the two countries.

Several licences have already been issued to Turkish Petroleum to drill in the Eastern Med, including off the Greek islands of Rhodes and Crete.

The tensions between the nations involved have prompted the EU to get involved which is why the issue will be discussed at the EU summit on Thursday.

10.29am update: Hungarian Prime Minister announces there is a chance of an agreement

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s cabinet chief said on Thursday there is a chance for an agreement on the European Union’s next budget and recovery fund as the bloc’s leaders met for a crunch summit.

Hungarian Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office Gergely Gulyás said: “There is a compromise, which is acceptable for Germany and meets the conditions of Hungary and Poland.

“Therefore, there is a chance that we can book this victory at today’s EU summit and heads of state and government can approve the documents unanimously.”

9.47am update: Economist discusses impact of Hungary and Poland edging towards an agreement

A senior eurozone economist at ING Bert Colijn said: “The breakthrough between Germany, Poland and Hungary should generate some positivity because it takes away some of the uncertainty…that grants are finally going to be imbursed and that the recovery and resilience fund is not going to be in trouble.”

He added: “But uncertainty around Brexit is increasing since we haven’t seen or heard anything tangible come out of the negotiations that would suggest we are getting closer to a deal.”

9.43am update: Angela Merkel to debrief EU27 on Brexit

The German politician is expected to debrief the leaders of the 27 member countries on the state of play with the Brexit negotiations when they gather for a European Council summit today.

Brexit negotiations are stalled on three key areas: fishing rights, the level-playing field and the governance.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the UK has already moved in agreeing to a transition period to allow European trawlermen to adjust to changes in fishing rights, but argued that the EU is asking too much when it comes to level playing field arrangements

9.26am update: Leaders likely to unblock €2.18 trillion to help with pandemic costs

Hungary and Poland have lifted their veto over a landmark European Union stimulus package in exchange for a delay in a sanctioning process that could strip them of access to the funds.

The compromise was brokered by Germany and will be put before the bloc’s leaders on Thursday.

The agreement will pave the way for the release of €2.18 trillion to the continent’s battered economies.

Hungary and Poland were vehemently opposed to making these funds condition on rule-of-law standards.

Instead, the proposal still ties disbursements from the package to democratic standards, though such sanctions cannot be triggered before the European Court of Justice has ruled on the legality of the new rules.

9.07am update: EU leaders intend to discuss Brexit over dinner on Thursday

Ms Merkel and Mr Macron were previously keen to stress Brexit will not be discussed during today’s summit.

However, according to Express.co.uk’s Brussel correspondent Joe Barnes, EU leaders intend to discuss Brexit over dinner as part of the “external relations” section.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to remain in Brussels during the summit, despite the UK no longer able to participate as the country left the EU officially on January 31.

Mr Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen gave themselves until the end of the weekend to seal a new trade pact after failing to overcome persistent rifts at a dinner meeting on Wednesday.

8.50am update: EU leaders will today make steps towards issuing additional sanctions on Turkey

A draft of European Council summit conclusions seen by POLITICO reads: “Turkish unilateral and provocative activities in the Eastern Mediterranean are still taking place, including in Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone.”

The sanctions will be issued in a bid to increase pressure on Ankara to stop drilling.

According to a senior EU diplomat, a possible option is to make EU ports and services inaccessible to Turkish vessels involved in the explorations in the contested waters.

Launching sanctions is intended as a means to enable other actions to work and “give diplomacy more space”.

8.26am update: Today’s EU summit agenda

The European Council agenda for December 10 to 11 will include:

  • Covid-19: The European Council will take stock of the situation and discuss the overall coordination effort in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including work on vaccines and testing and the gradual lifting of restrictions.
  • Climate change: EU leaders will aim to agree a new EU emissions reduction target for 2030. This will allow the EU to submit its updated nationally determined contribution to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change before the end of 2020.
  • Security: The European Council will address security issues and in particular the fight against terrorism and violent extremism, including online.
  • External relations: Following the elections in the United States, the European Council will hold a discussion on EU-US relations. In line with its conclusions of October 2020, the European Council will come back to the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean and relations with Turkey. Leaders will also discuss EU relations with the Southern Neighbourhood.
  • Euro Summit: A Euro Summit in an inclusive format will take place on December 11, focusing on the banking union and the capital markets union.

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