Like a couple in a strained marriage, the EU’s 27* national leaders will in September head to Bratislava for a day by the Danube to get away from it all and try to remember why they are still together. “Sometimes member states need to have intensive discussions among themselves,” said Robert Fico, the Slovakian prime minister who will play host/marriage counsellor. The reason for the city break? “Brussels tends to have a rather negative connotation these days,” says Mr Fico.
The main discussion at the informal leaders-only meeting will be Britain. But diplomats hope to give leaders a chance to discuss a broader question affecting the EU: who is in charge? Their likely response: “Us.”
Brexit has triggered an inter-institutional turf war and many member states want to send a message that they are still the boss.
CLIP ITS WINGS
Some want change at the European Commission. German politicians – from the finance minister downwards – spent the weekend outlining the ways they would like to cut it down.
This thorough piece in Spiegel spells out Angela Merkel’s displeasure at the calls from Jean-Claude Juncker for a speedy British departure. SomeGerman newspapers, meanwhile, are now calling for Mr Juncker to step down.
Others want the European Parliament – whose members are sometimes unkindly nicknamed “monkeys with guns” by their friends in the Council – to wind its neck in, even if they do not always say so publicly. “It’s a taboo issue,” says one diplomat.
Both the commission and the parliament will have other ideas.
European Parliament president Martin Schulz took the opportunity to call for an EU-wide referendum on a “genuine European government”, with ministers acting as legislator alongside Schulz’s merry MEPs. The commission has been less sweeping, but still clear: Mr Juncker has repeatedly insisted he is not going anywhere.
While Britain turns in on itself and flounders over domestic politics, Brussels’ internecine scrap could start getting nasty.
*Get used to it.
No stay May Theresa May is playing hardball, refusing to guarantee the status of EU migrants already living in the UK if Britain does leave the EU. The home secretary is the front-runner but campaigned for remain and will be keen to burnish her Brexit credentials.
But surveys suggest the vast bulk of Brits want to let those already here stay – even the Ukippers – meaning that May’s comments have made even Leave campaigners queasy.
Article 50 watch Andrea Leadsom: September, or as soon as possible. Michael Gove: end of the year at the earliest. Stephen Crabb: in good time, once UK is prepared. Theresa May: not until 2017. Liam Fox: mid-2017 at earliest.
A disastrous journey Andrea Leadsom, the pro-Brexit energy minister, will today launch her bid to stop Theresa May becoming prime minister, claiming she had been on “a journey” since saying that leaving the EU would be “a disaster” in 2013. Still, she might win.
Blood and farce British politics turned into a tragicomic version of the final scene of Reservoir Dogs last week and The Sunday Times runs through the bloody details. (Paywall, but worth it.)