Austria’s prime minister has said he hopes that Brexit can be reversed, hours after British MPs voted to give themselves a veto on Theresa May’s final deal.
Arriving at European Council summit in Brussels Christian Kern said Brexit would likely throw up problems that are “not easy to solve”.
“I hope that it could be reversed because there will be a lot of big issues, challenges, [that are] not easy to solve, and there will be a lot of tensions in domestic political area in Great Britain, so who knows,” the federal chancellor told reporters on the doorstep of the summit.
But asked how likely he believed Brexit’s reversal he replied: “Good question, I don’t know.”
Mr Kern, who is soon expected to leave office when on-going coalition talks conclude, appeared un-phased by the UK Parliament giving itself a vote on the final Brexit deal.
“Such a very big international contract and agreement, in our case in Austria would be agreed by the Austrian parliament, so that’s just exactly the situation we’re going to have in the United Kingdom. I don’t see any additional obstacles,” he said.
Mr Kern’s reaction to the news that MPs will be given a vote contrasted with that of other EU leaders national leaders arriving at the summit. Xavier Bettel, the prime minister of Luxembourg, told reporters in Brussels that Parliament’s decision last night to give it a vote would make negotiations more complicated.
“This is not good for Theresa May … as soon as she negotiates something she will have to go back to London to get approval from her Parliament and this is not making her life easier,” he said.
“This doesn’t change anything on the agenda, it’s just going to make it more complicated for the United Kingdom government.”
Mr Bettel replied “no” when asked by reporters whether the EU would re-open negotiations were MPs to reject the deal.
Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister, however said he expected the PM to be able to pass any deal.
“Yes, I do think so. I believe that in UK society and also in political circles there’s widespread support for a reasonable negotiated exit of Britain from the European Union,” he said.
“I still think she has a formidable stature here and last week Friday showed all of us that we should not underestimate Theresa May. She’s a formidable politician,” he said.
He added that the question of whether Parliament should get a vote was “up to Parliament and the Government in the UK, how to exactly calibrate that relationship”.
National leaders are arriving in Brussels today for the two-day meeting, where they will start by discussing the EU’s response to the migration crisis and a new bloc-wide defence pact.
On Friday, after Ms May has returned to the UK, leaders of the EU27 will discuss the progress made in Brexit negotiations and are expected to formally agree to move to the next phase of talks – following the recommendation of the European Commission and European Parliament.
On Friday leaders will also discuss plans for tighter integration of the European Union economies, with attention likely to be focused on a plan to create a fully fledged European Monetary Fund to replace the European Stability Mechanism (ESM). The ESM gives Eurozone members instant access to financial assistance when they have budget problems.
Brexit: the deciders
Though the Brexit element of the summit was initially expected to be straightforward, Ms May’s defeat last night has added an extra element to proceedings – raising concerns in European capitals that the PM might not be able to enforce whatever deal she negotiates.
The Prime Minister is expected to speak to leaders at a working dinner on Thursday evening before flying back to the UK.
Following Ms May’s triggering of Article 50 in March this year the UK has until March 2019 before it automatically leaves the bloc. This period can only be extended by a unanimous vote of the European Council – a meeting of all the EU’s national leaders.
There is no legal consensus on whether Article 50 is unilaterally revocable, though Council president Donald Tusk has previously suggested in passing that negotiations could end in “no Brexit”.