December 14, 2018 / 8:55 AM / 8 months ago

Highlights - EU leaders arrive for second day of summit dominated by Brexit

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union leaders arrive in Brussels for a second day of day of talks on Brexit, the euro zone, migration and Russia, among others.

General view of the hall during a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium December 13, 2018. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw/Pool

Below are some of their comments made on arrival.

IRISH PRIME MINISTER LEO VARADKAR

“We’re very satisfied with the conclusions that we reached last night, which are that we as the European Union stand by the withdrawal agreement that was negotiated. We don’t believe it’s up for re-negotiation. We’re very keen to begin, as soon as it’s ratified, talks on the future relationship as we want to have a close future relationship with the United Kingdom. As Europe we reaffirmed our commitment to the need for a backstop and not just because it protects Ireland and ensures no hard border... but also because it’s a European issue too and an open border between Northern Ireland and Ireland can’t become a backdoor to the single market.”

DANISH PRIME MINISTER LARS LOKKE RASMUSSEN

“We want to start negotiations about future relations as soon as possible and we have no intention to trigger the backstop.”

“It is now up to the British to come to ... a national consensus as we did in Denmark when the Danish rejected the Maastricht treaty in order to tell us exactly what to do to get it through the British parliament.”

LUXEMBOURG PRIME MINISTER XAVIER BETTEL

“The problem is the MPs in London. ... Theresa May did her work and she did it well. She really was able to have the best possible deal. The fact is that for internal political reasons in the UK some people are trying to gamble the relations between the UK and the EU. I think it is bad.”

“MPs in London should be responsible and to know if they want to have the best possible deal or to go in a direction where they don’t know what will come.”

“What will happen without the backstop: a hard border. So we need to have guarantees. ... Westminster wants a legally-binding guarantee that we will never have a backstop then we don’t need even the text of about the backstop.”

AUSTRIAN CHANCELLOR SEBASTIAN KURZ

“I think it was good that we told Theresa May once again that we would not reopen the withdrawal agreement ... but besides the withdrawal agreement there is a huge understanding of both sides and a wish to find a way to deal with Brexit.”

“The backstop is an idea for a short period of time and not for the next decades and I think it was necessary to say this clearly.”

BELGIAN PRIME MINISTER CHARLES MICHEL

“The signals we heard yesterday were not very reassuring about the capabilities of the UK to honour the arrangement that was concluded so we are going to be sure to prepare for all the scenarios including a no deal.”

“It is our clear political wish to start talks about future relations very quickly but there is a fundamental question: Is a deal possible in the UK, yes or no?

“A no deal is also a possibility, so we have to work hard to be ready for that.

“I’m not optimistic as the indications yesterday did not point to approval in the British parliament.”

EUROGROUP PRESIDENT MARIO CENTENO

“Today I hope to get a mandate from the leaders to continue working on budgetary instruments to promote convergence and competitiveness in the euro area.”

CROATIAN PRIME MINISTER ANDREJ PLENKOVIC

“I didn’t see any hard time. What we agreed upon is to send another signal ....

The text we agreed upon yesterday is a solid signal first and foremost to the prime minister, but also to the MPs in the house.

For now, the responsibilities are on the UK side. The ball is in the UK court literally.

What is important is that we have a negotiated Brexit - although I many times repeated it is a very bad item on the agenda and the worst one for the United Kingdom. So if it was up to me I would never, ever have organised such an unnecessary referendum which creates hassle for all of us and eventually most of the costs and the problems will be on the UK side.

Read very carefully what was agreed. I think it was a very constructive approach by the council.

Our mission is to join eurozone. We have agreed upon it in the accession treaty.”

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT KLAUS IOHANNIS

“We are very clear. It is our very deep desire to have a very good, a very special future relationship, which will be negotiated. There is no need or no wish for a backstop. ... We need a vote from the British parliament and we very much wish that this will be a positive vote.

We expect a positive vote from the British parliament (in January), not a summit.

You should see things as they really are. The pressure is felt in Britain, not among us.... We said together clearly yesterday, we are saying it today, we repeat that no one wants a delay to talks on the future relationship, we want particularly good future relations and that is what we are working on.”

Reporting by Francesco Guarascio, Michel Rose, Alissa de Carbonnel and Phil Blenkinsop

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