Theresa May’s Brexit ‘plan B’ rejected by Europe

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May makes a statement following winning a confidence vote, after Parliament rejected her Brexit deal, outside 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, January 16, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

“This is a negotiation between the EU and the UK,” Ireland’s European Affairs Minister Helen McEntee

Theresa May is due to set out her Brexit ‘plan B’ later today ( PA )

Theresa May’s Plan B was bluntly ruled out by European leaders today just hours before she stood up to announce it to MPs.

Dublin delivered a firm “No” to Downing Street’s latest bid to go back to Brussels and ask for concessions on the backstop.

And the vice-president of the European Parliament also flatly rejected two other ideas being hastily floated as ways of defusing the Brexit deal: one being to remove the backstop from the EU agreement and replace it with an Anglo-Irish treaty; the other being to rewrite the Good Friday agreement that underpins the peace process.

The triple-No to Mrs May followed a weekend of political confusion as ministers argued over how best to break the deadlock in Parliament and backbenchers plotted openly to seize the reins.

Mrs May arrives back at No10 this morning (PA)

In the latest developments:

  • Business Minister Richard Harrington said no-deal would be an “absolute disaster” and slammed as a “sham” the trade agreements that International Trade Secretary Liam Fox pledged to sign before Brexit Day on March 29 but which have fallen behind schedule. 
  • Germany’s Europe minister Michael Roth urged Britain to “think about it again” and stay in the European Union.
  • An expert warned that the Queen could be drawn into the constitutional crisis over Brexit. Former Government law adviser Sir Stephen Laws said the Government could ask the Monarch to refuse to give Royal Assent to a cross-party Bill if conventions are overturned by the Speaker.
  • Warnings that the Labour Party could split were amplified when former minister Chris Leslie said the public would “not forgive” Jeremy Corbyn if he refused to back a second referendum.

Mrs May was due to reveal to the Commons at 3.30pm her plans to rescue her Brexit deal after it was voted down by a record 432 votes to 202 last week.

Follow the latest Brexit developments LIVE

In a conference call with her Cabinet yesterday, Mrs May indicated that she would prefer to seek concessions from the EU rather than risk splitting the Tory Party by negotiating a cross-party agreement for a softer Brexit.

But Ireland’s European Affairs Minister Helen McEntee pre-empted her by saying the backstop could not be removed. She also rejected direct talks between Dublin and London. “This is a negotiation between the EU and the UK,” she told RTE.

Mairead McGuinness, the European Parliament vice-president who played a key role in winning EU support for the backstop, said reports that Mrs May wanted a new treaty between the UK and Ireland to replace it were “not an option”.

Downing Street has reportedly distanced itself from the plan, reported in the Telegraph, to change the Good Friday Agreement. 

Declaring herself “surprised” she said no EU country would “break ranks” to do separate deals outside the bloc.

Michel Barnier, the EU chief negotiator, commented “challenging times…” as he held a meeting with Ireland’s deputy PM Simon Coveney.


Most Labour supporters want People’s Vote, Corbyn is told

Mrs May also faced a rising risk of defeat in the Commons as cross-party groups of MPs put down amendments to her plan.

Conservative Nicholas Boles, the former minister who masterminded a Bill to enable the House of Commons to veto a no-deal Brexit, said he was getting broad support across Parliament: “The amendment we will be laying this afternoon will be signed by MPs from five parties.”

After weekend claims that an amendment being put down by former Attorney General Dominic Grieve amounted to an attempted coup, Mr Boles stressed that his plan was “a very limited intervention” specifically dealing with a no-deal situation.

Mrs May is facing the rising risk of her plan being defeated again in the Commons (PA)

Labour former Cabinet minister Yvette Cooper, who is piloting the Bill said the Prime Minister may be hoping Parliament would rule out no deal to save her from the political cost of doing so.

She told Today: “I think she knows that she should rule out no deal in the national interest because it would be so damaging. She’s refusing to do so and I think she’s hoping that Parliament will do this for her – that is not leadership.”

Sir Stephen said the Queen being put on the spot if the Bill was passed. Writing for the Policy Exchange think tank, he warned: “It is a sacred duty of all UK politicians not to involve the Monarch in politics. They have a constitutional responsibility to resolve difficulties between themselves in accordance with the rules, and so as not to call on the ultimate referee.” 

Sir Stephen, formerly the Government’s most senior lawyer on legislative and constitutional matters, said the Queen could be drawn in if the Government and parliament could not agree on the rules.

Germany’s Mr Roth urged said Britain should consider abandoning Brexit.  “The door to the EU always remains open – perhaps think about it again,” he told ARD.

Some 57 Brexit-backing Tory MPs signed public pledges to reject Mrs May’s Withdrawal Agreement on the grounds that it kept the UK too close to EU rules.


YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Soundcloud And More Face Article 13, New Law Written By The European Parliament; And They Are Huge Consequences For Everyone: Content Creators And Consumers Alike


Article 13 – THE END OF YOUTUBE! – There’s a better way

It’s Coming Article 13 | An Important Message For All Creative People

Article 13 is part of European copyright legislation created with the intent to better protect creativity and find effective ways for copyright holders to protect their content online.

We support the goals of Article 13, but the version written by the European Parliament could have large unintended consequences that would change the web as we know it.

Will this spell the end YouTube as we have known it? That kind be right; there must be a better way

There’s a better way. Learn more and make your voice heard.

  1. What is Article 13?
    • Article 13 is one part of a proposed European Union (EU) copyright legislation created with the intent to better protect creativity and find effective ways for copyright holders to protect their content online. (Official text here).
    • To be clear, we support the goals of Article 13 and its push to help creators and artists succeed; we want more effective ways for copyright holders to protect their content. But Article 13, as written by the European Parliament, will create large unintended consequences for everyone, so we’re asking to find a better way forward.
  2. What’s the status of Article 13?
    • On September 12th the European Parliament voted to move forward with Article 13.
    • However, Article 13 is not yet a law. The language is being drafted and revised in EU’s trilogue negotiations between representatives from the European Commission, Parliament and Council.
    • This language could be finalized by the end of the year, and EU member states may have up to two years to make the directive into national law.
  3. What changes with Article 13?
    • The proposed version of Article 13 would eliminate the existing notice-and-takedown system currently in place to protect rightsholders and platforms. This would make platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Soundcloud, Dailymotion, Reddit and Snapchat liable – at the moment of upload – for any copyright infringement in uploads from users, creators and artists.
    • This in turn would mean that platforms including YouTube would be forced to block the vast majority of uploads from Europe and views in Europe for content uploaded elsewhere given the uncertainty and complexity of copyright ownership (more on this below).
  4. What would be the impact if the European Parliament version of Article 13 passes?
    • The risks associated with accepting content uploads with partial or disputed copyright information would be far too large for platforms such as YouTube.
    • As a result, YouTube would be forced to block millions of videos (existing and new ones) in the European Union. It could drastically limit the content that one can upload to the platform in Europe.
    • Creators would be especially hard hit. Videos that could be blocked include: educational videos (from channels such as Kurzgesagt in Germany and C.G.P. Grey in the UK), a large number of official music videos (like Despacito from Luis Fonsi or Mafioso from Lartiste), fan music covers, mashups, parodies and more.
    • As such, Article 13 threatens hundreds of thousands of jobs, European creators, businesses, artists and everyone they employ.
  5. What does this mean for me as a YouTube creator or artist in the European Union?
    • YouTube and other platforms may have no choice but to block your existing videos and prevent you from uploading new ones in the European Union unless you can prove you own everything in your videos (including visuals and sounds).
  6. What does this mean for me as a YouTube creator or an artist NOT in the European Union?
    • YouTube and other platforms will likely block your videos (including existing ones) to users in the European Union if there is partial or disputed copyright information.
  7. What types of copyrighted content would I not be able to use in my videos?
    • Examples of copyrighted material possibly impacted in your videos include images, artwork, software, excerpts from books, music, parodies and much more. (Read more here).
  8. Why aren’t copyright matching tools like Content ID enough?
    • With Article 13 as currently written, copyright matching tools like Content ID wouldn’t help platforms such as YouTube to keep content on the platform.
    • Content ID works if rightsholders use it and provide clarity as to what belongs to them. However, in many cases information on copyright ownership is missing, or there is partial knowledge, meaning that no system could accurately identify full copyright information at the point of upload.
    • Put simply, a piece of content with partial or unknown ownership is – to YouTube – treated the same as a piece of content that is unlicensed and so would have to be blocked.
  9. Is there a better way forward with Article 13?
    • Yes! We’re asking lawmakers to find a better balance we all need to protect against copyright violations and still enable European users, creators and artists to share their voices online. In order to do that, we need a system where both platforms and rightsholders collaborate.
    • What this means in reality is three things:
      • Rightsholders should work with platforms to identify the content they own, so the platforms know what is protected under copyright and can give rightsholders control to block if they choose.
      • Platforms should only be held liable for content identified to them using tools like Content ID or through notice and takedown.
      • Platforms and rightsholders should negotiate in good faith where licenses and rights can be easily identified
  10. What can I do to help find a better way forward with Article 13?
    • European representatives are still working on the final version of Article 13 and there is time to work together towards a better path forward.
    • The European policymakers involved in negotiating Article 13 need to hear and see that real people could be negatively impacted if Article 13 goes into effect as written by the Parliament! That’s why we need you and your fans to make your voice heard now by:
      • Making a video about Article 13
      • Tweeting about Article 13 with the hashtag #SaveYourInternet
      • Joining the movement at
  11. What’s up with other players? Is YouTube alone in this fight?
  12. Which countries would be directly impacted by Article 13?
    • All member states of the EU: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland,Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK (at least for now, here’s more about Brexit).
  13. One last thing. What are common misunderstandings about Article 13?

Europe reacts to Juncker’s “The Hour of European Sovereignty” speech


Open Europe’s Anna Nadibaidze overviews the European responses to Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s last State of the European Union speech.

The European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker yesterday delivered his annual State of the European Union speech, – “The Hour of European Sovereignty” – the last one before a new European Parliament gets elected and before the UK leaves the EU in 2019.

In his proposals for the future of the EU, Juncker called for greater solidarity and unity among member states, as well as for more “European sovereignty – the capacity to play a role, as a Union, in shaping global affairs.”

The proposals listed in his speech include strengthening the EU’s Border and Coast Guard with 10,000 additional guards by 2020, developing the European Asylum Agency, and increasing the return of illegal migrants. The Commission does not seek to “militarise the EU,” Juncker explained, while pledging to make the European Defence Fund and the Permanent Structured Cooperation in Defence (PESCO) fully operational in the coming months. In the sphere of security the Commission is also suggesting “new rules to get terrorist content off the web within one hour,” and to allow the European Public Prosecutor’s Office to take care of terrorist offences.

Juncker also voiced proposals for a new partnership with Africa, a new Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs between Europe and Africa and “a continent to continent free trade agreement.”

69% of and showed their commitment to protect rule of law and fundamental rights in . Now its up Council to bring process forward and bring Hungary back to the right path

On Brexit, Juncker pointed out that “the UK will never be an ordinary third country for us. The UK will always be a very close neighbour and partner, in political, economic and security terms.” However, he also warned the UK Government that “If you leave the Union, you are of course no longer part of our single market, and certainly not only in the parts of it you choose,” referring to the UK’s proposal for a future partnership which suggests a free trade area in goods, but not in financial services.

Despite the fact that most of yesterday’s attention focused on the European Parliament’s vote to launch Article 7 procedures against Hungary, there was also a variety of mixed reactions to Juncker’s proposals. Here is an overview of what European politicians and media had to say:

European Parliament members:

Ahead of the speech, the leader of the European People’s Party (EPP) group and candidate for the post of President of the Commission, Manfred Weber, released a video message in which he supports the proposals to strengthen Frontex and fight illegal migration. He also later urged to switch for qualified majority voting in the Council on foreign affairs, saying, “Europe is an economic giant, but also has to become a political one.”

Manfred Weber


Today @JunckerEU is holding State of the Union speech. We are looking forward to raising awareness on two main issues: keeping people safe & working for a fairer EU. Watch my video update

Leader of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) group, Udo Bullmann, argued that many of the Commission’s proposals “are not enough,” calling for a “radical change” in the EU. In particular, the group “urges the European Commission to concentrate on the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) in the upcoming months,” adding, “Our priority from now on is to make sure that the Parliament can fully use its prerogatives to scrutinize the Commission proposal.”

Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) group and the EP’s Brexit coordinator, called for the EU Commission to “be a new type of European government that realises the legacy of Juncker and the vision of [French President] Emmanuel Macron. We will offer an alternative to nationalists and populists in Europe ahead of the next election.”

Guy Verhofstadt


The European Commission we need in the future will be a new type of European government that realizes the legacy of @JunckerEU & the vision of @EmmanuelMacron. We will offer an alternative to nationalists & populists in Europe ahead of the next elections

Syed Kamall, leader of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group, stated the group calls on the Commission “to start delivering the kind of EU people want and deserve… It is time to move on from the 1950s model of a federalised EU, an outdated vision of yesterday. It is time to deliver an EU shaped by the wishes of its people who want a better tomorrow.”

Dutch MEP Hans van Baalen, a member of Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s governing VVD, commented that Juncker’s speech was “a federal sprint before the finish,” rejecting Juncker’s proposals to scrap the veto in foreign policy and in taxation plans. However, he called a greater role for a European coast guard “crucial.”

Dutch MEP Marietje Schaake, from the Democrats 66 (part of the ALDE group), argued that more proposals should have been voiced in order to react to the events in Syria, as “Europe cannot be a bystander” when facing such crises. According to Schaake, Juncker’s speech “underlines the fact that we are not strong enough…that we do not have our defence cooperation in order.”



| Dutch MEP Marietje Schaake (@MarietjeSchaake) gives her view on Jean-Claude Juncker’s final state of the union. 

Danish MEP Anders Vistisen from the ECR criticised the proposals for more integration on migration, calling for greater sovereignty on asylum policies.

Anders Vistisen MEP@MEPvistisen

’s answer to the migration crisis? Abolishing internal border controls, more legal migration & forced redistribution. This is not the way forward! EC has to respect the sovereignty of EU Member States over asylum policy!

EU leaders and politicians respond:

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz branded Juncker’s proposal to give Frontex a stronger mandate as “an important step” and expressed support for closer cooperation with African countries.

Sebastian Kurz


Die heutige Rede von Kommissionspräsident Jean-Claude @JunckerEU gibt ein starkes Bekenntnis zu einem ab, das gemäß dem Prinzip der groß in den großen Fragen ist, wie etwa dem -Außengrenzschutz.

Sebastian Kurz


Besonders der Vorschlag der -Kommission, rasch aufzustocken u mit einem stärkeren Mandat auszustatten, ist nach der Trendwende in der europ im Sommer ein weiterer wichtiger Schritt. @JunckerEU

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he “really liked the speech” and supported the proposals for a stronger external border, saying that Juncker’s goal to control migration is right, and that collective protection of borders “is an important tool.” However, he also called the proposals to add an additional 10,000 border guards a “little wild,” saying that the 12bn euros that these guards would cost is “a lot of money.” Rutte also disagreed with the proposal to expand the tasks of the European Public Prosecution Service.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte noted that the proposals for a partnership with Africa and on accelerating the return of illegal migrants are particularly welcome.  He added that it will be “crucial to undertake a shared path towards the management of migration” and that Italy will be waiting for the reaction of the European Council to Juncker’s proposals, while supporting the message that Europe needs to stay strong and united.

Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen also focused on the challenge of migration, calling for further cooperation with third countries and border protection.

Lars Løkke Rasmussen


Pleased that @JunckerEU in remains dedicated to tackling the challenge of migration. Preventive action is key: building partnerships w/third countries and ensuring strong and efficient border protection. We must show the citizens that the EU can deliver.

The French European Affairs Minister, Nathalie Loiseau, said France fully supports Juncker’s initiative for a new partnership with Africa.

Nathalie Loiseau


@JunckerEU propose ue nouvelle alliance avec l’Afrique. Il a tout notre soutien.

Prime Minister Theresa May agreed with Juncker’s comments on Brexit, adding that even after Brexit, the “EU will also never be an ordinary party” for the UK.

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa praised the speech, focusing on the “the importance of a united Europe in the fight against climate change, in promoting a sustainable response to migration, peace and international security.”

António Costa


He recalled that only by standing united can we overcome the challenges of the future; in the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights, in the Digital transition, in the deepening of the Eurozone and in trade.

António Costa


And the importance of a united Europe in the fight against climate change, in promoting a sustainable response to migration, peace and international security. Thank you, @JunckerEU, for your inspirational defense of our Europe.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov expressed his support for Juncker’s calling the EU to be a more active player in the Western Balkans.

Boyko Borissov


I fully support @JunckerEU’s words: „We must find unity when it comes to the – once and for all. Should we not, our immediate neighborhood will be shaped by others.”

European media responds:
With the headline “Juncker delivers his last great speech in a dark atmosphere,” Les Échos newspaper focuses on the multiple issues the EU is facing, such as the migration question (which “poisons the European debate”), the turn to illiberal democracy in several member states, the stalled Brexit negotiations and conflictual discussions on the next European budget. In Le Point, Juncker’s task is described as “making a speech on the State of the Union to cover up a state of disunion,” with a warning that the President has 250 days left to convince European voters. But this is not enough for the Commission to advance its proposals, notes the article. On a similar note, Le Monde points to one “handicap” in the speech – the lack of time to put into place Juncker’s proposals, given that campaigning for the European election has already begun.

The Guardian points to Juncker’s dismissal of the Government’s Chequers proposals and notices that he “scorned the British government’s plans to build a rival to the EU’s Galileo satellite project.” The paper adds that the “Commission president’s tone was generally gloomy.”

In today’s The Times, an editorial says Juncker “painted an over-flattering picture” of the state of the EU during his presidency, noting the lack of unity among member states on key issues such as migration. It concludes,

Britain needs to find a way between the rigidity of the commission position on Brexit and [Juncker’s] apparently gentler promise of close partnership… If this co-operation ends up aligning Britain with an increasingly hostile position towards the US, then this country’s interests will not be best served. Mr Juncker’s time in office is running out, as is Britain’s time in the European Union. His successor should focus on a guiding principle which Mr Juncker has let slip: the EU must reform on all levels if it is to survive.”

Meanwhile, The Independent editorial notes that “It may have been a thoughtful and reflective speech, but on [neither Europe’s problems nor Brexit] did he offer much evidence that the commission has all the answers.” It concludes,

Stormy as Mr Juncker’s presidency has been… He can point to real achievements, especially in trade and most recently defusing a potential trade war with the Americans. There have, though, been failures, in the sense that the commission is as insensitive to the mood of Europe’s electorates as ever.


Centre-left weekly Der Spiegel writes that while Juncker “demands off the EU to again show strength on the global stage,” he also “conceals the massive obstacles. For a good reason.” It adds, “For his high-flying plans to have even just a small likelihood of being realised, the EU would need to act quickly. But, so far, this is not foreseeable. Because the most dangerous enemies of the EU and its values are not Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, but Viktor Orban, Jaroslaw Kaczynski and Matteo Salvini.” The paper also writes about Juncker’s speech,

Many of his proposals aim at making use of the vacuum created by Trump. Juncker’s motto could also be: Make Europe great again.

For n-tv, Juncker’s speech and the following debate showed the two realities of the EU: one a “success story,” and the other, the lack of unity on several issues, including the vote on Hungary’s respect for EU values. The article concludes that the debate over European sovereignty at the end of Juncker’s term is not less fierce than when he came to office.

National newspaper Die Zeit reviews Juncker’s presidency term overall, concluding that he has made progress on some economic matters such as the Greek debt crisis, the unemployment situation in the EU and the potential trade war with the US. “Juncker’s problem is not the economy,” the paper notes, adding that Juncker “has to ask unpleasant questions” on Brexit and on the state of the rule of law in countries such as Hungary and Poland. It also argues that the President tries to find European solutions to issues such as migration, and that his proposals “are ready for implementation,” but it remains to be seen whether EU heads of state will support him in the last plans of his term.

For the Suddeutsche Zeitung, Juncker is not as aggressive as he used to be and “is more concerned with seeking unity in this divided union.” The paper also notes that his proposals come from the fact that he “is determined that the EU must change its role in the world if it does not want to go down.”

Der Tagesspiegel writes that the speech “provided a sober assessment of the state of the EU.” The paper comments that due to rising nationalist sentiments in member states, “It would certainly not have hurt if Juncker had spelled out the possible long-term consequences of an escalating nationalism.” Overall, Juncker left only a vague rejection of ‘exaggerated nationalism’… He said that “Europe remains,” but the question is: which Europe?”


Austrian Daily newspaper Die Presse focuses on Juncker’s calling on the Austrian EU Council presidency to develop more sustainable solutions in the sphere of migration, while in Der Standard, Juncker’s “soft tone” and calls for rejecting nationalism are contrasted with Hungarian Prime Minister Orbán’s “wild nationalist attacks on parliamentarians and the common Europe.”


Irish headlines mostly focused on Juncker’s commitment to “show loyalty and solidarity with Ireland when it comes to the Irish border” in Brexit negotiations, as well as on the proposals to move to qualified majority voting on taxation matters. The Irish Independent points out that

such changes would undermine the competitiveness of the 12.5% corporate tax rate offered by Ireland. [Irish] Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe and colleagues have vehemently insisted that they will resist any such changes and that Ireland retains a valid veto.


Il Sole 24 Ore comments that the proposal to reinforce Frontex is “ambitious, as it effectively means reducing national sovereignty.” The paper notes that that unlike in previous speeches, Juncker has maintained his speech on a “low profile, avoiding excessive and unnecessary rhetoric.”

La Stampa evaluates Juncker as “a little tired, with arguments that do not succeed to warm the audience of the European parliament, and with decidedly unambitious proposals.” The paper adds, “It seemed an intervention from the past, too old for a Europe that finds itself in a critical phase on the eve of a decisive election.” Juncker’s call to reject “the kind of nationalism that points the finger at others instead of searching for ways to better live together” attracted much attention in Italy even though Juncker did not name names, according to the paper.


On a similar note as above, El Pais writes that Juncker pronounced the speech with a “slow, almost deadly” pace, noting that his words sounded like a “testament to a Europe of yesterday that does not know if it has a tomorrow.”


An op-ed for L’Écho points out that “even if Europe is going through an existential crisis…the Commission President delivered a speech in which we might have read some optimism.” This “optimism of the willingness” to reinforce European integration without making concessions to the extremist nationalists is the heritage that Juncker seeks to leave behind.


Dutch weekly news magazine Elsevier states that “Juncker’s words were more of the same – that more integration to solve migration issues is needed.” However, the magazine judges the proposals to make more issues an EU competence as “impractical” and “unnecessary.” It concludes that Juncker supports EU integration in itself rather than evaluating its feasibility and usefulness for citizens.