Bettel says Brexit talks not happening in “souk”


Xavier Bettel speaks with Sky News in Brussels, 21 March 2019. Image credit: Sky News 

A visibly frustrated Xavier Bettel told a TV journalist last week that Brexit negotiations were not taking place in a “souk” or outdoor marketplace where terms could be endlessly haggled over.

Bettel, Luxembourg’s DP prime minister, was speaking on the sidelines of the European Council summit where EU leaders gave the UK an extension until either 12 April or 22 May to exit the bloc. The British prime minister Theresa May had requested a prolongation to 30 June.

Faisal Islam, political editor at Sky News, asked Bettel on 21 March if the EU’s firm negotiating stance could, in effect, “force the United Kingdom out” of the EU.

Bettel stated:

“We don’t force the United Kingdom out, you decided to leave. We shouldn’t exchange roles. You want us to be the bad guy. You decided, you decided, you decided! We had just to find a deal. And we negotiated a deal. We found the best possible deal. And we are not on the souk where we are going to bargain for the next five years.”

The following day, 22 March, Bettel was asked by reporters “what are your odds” on the Brexit deal passing the UK House of Commons. Bettel replied: “50-50”.

He was then asked, “are you worried by that?” Bettel answered:

“No, but I can’t change it, you know. I regret your referendum, I regret the outcome of the referendum, and I regret the divorce. So I hope a deal will be there. So I would even love 51-49, and 51 remain with us. Even better for 51 to get a deal”.