Michel Barnier at the EESC: "The worst thing for Europe is silence"

The EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, attended the European Economic and Social Committee's 540th plenary session to outline the EU's views on the Brexit deal and possible future scenarios.

EESC president Luca Jahier congratulated Mr Barnier for the work done and underlined that the EESC was strongly committed to UK civil society: "The EESC is well prepared for any future scenario and will consolidate its relationship with our British counterparts."

Mr Barnier warned that Europe needed to be prepared for a 'no-deal' scenario. "Whatever the outcome, the representatives of organised civil society will have a decisive role in raising awareness among citizens", he said.

The 'backstop'

EESC members called for a firm stance on the 'backstop', which some referred to as the second-best solution for Northern Ireland, while the first was to remain in the EU.

Mr Barnier stressed that it was his responsibility to solve the problems for the EU. "We don't want to use the backstop. It's comparable to your house insurance – you pay it but you hope not to have to use it." It was the UK that wanted to leave the Union and it was Brexit that was causing problems for Ireland and Northern Ireland. The backstop was about people who needed security. And finally, the border in Ireland was also the border of 27 countries and the border of the Single Market. Therefore it was a European question.

"Brexit has no added value", Mr Barnier concluded. "But we should not confuse the consequences with the lessons of Brexit. Neither should we confuse populism and popular feelings. The worst thing is silence. We need to speak out; we need to open the debate. We may have different opinions, but we must keep talking, because populists use silence against Europe." (sma)