Dutch PM done with “whining” over Brexit; demands clarity from UK

The British government must quickly make clear what its plans are regarding the Brexit, before a postponement can be discussed, according to Prime Minister Mark Rutte. “What good is it to continue whining at each other for months, while you’ve been spinning in that circle for two years now”, he said after the British parliament voted to postpone the Brexit on Thursday, NOS reports.

On Tuesday the British House of Commons shot down an adjusted withdrawal agreement made between the British government and the EU, which included guarantees that the so-called Irish backstop will be a temporary measure - the reason why the British MPs shot down the previous agreement. On Wednesday the Brits voted against the UK leaving the EU with no agreement in place. And on Thursday they voted to postpone the Brexit, but this requires approval from all other 27 EU member states. If that approval does not happen, the British will leave the European Union on March 29th, without a deal.

“The political, social, financial and economic damage in Britain can not be ignored”, Rutte said shortly after Thursday’s vote. “And they still don’t know what they want.” The Dutch Prime Minister wonders whether there is any sense in a postponement. “You will get a situation in which we continue to talk for months, as we have been doing for months”, he said to NOS. “What good is it to continue whining at each other for months, while you’ve been spinning in that circle for two years.”

The biggest issue seems to be the so-called Irish backstop - a safety net meant to ensure that there is no hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland after the Brexit. Despite new guarantees that the backstop is only a temporary measure, the British parliamentarians still fear that it will force the UK to stay in a customs union with the EU due to the open border in Ireland.

According to Rutte, it would solve a lot of problems if the British quit drawing ‘red lines’. “If the British say that Northern Ireland can stay in the internal market for a while and remain a member of the United Kingdom, then the problem is solved. If they say that England will become part of the customs union in the future, the problem is solved. But they’ve drawn all those red lines. British politics must now give way.”

Rutte said that he will now do “absolutely nothing”, according to the broadcaster. “They have decided to leave. If they want to postpone, they must also say why”, he said, repeating multiple previous statements on postponement.

Whether Britain will get the postponement they want, remains to be seen. When the adapted deal was presented on Monday, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said: "We give the agreement a second chance. There will be no third chance. There will be no new negotiations. This is it."

If the House of Commons passes the withdrawal agreement in the third vote on this matter next week, then a deal is in place and Britain will likely be granted a small postponement to get everything in order. If the deal is again shot down, that is a different matter. Then the EU may well say, enough, let’s just get the no-deal Brexit over with, according to NOS. The European government leaders are meeting next week to discuss this situation.