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Brexit deal can’t change: EU Ambassador Reiterer

European delegation is also pushing to revise FTA with Korea
Jan 31,2019
이미지뷰
EU Ambassador to Korea Michael Reiterer briefs the press at the delegation’s office in central Seoul on Wednesday about the latest developments in EU-Korea relations, including the Brexit process and EU-Korea free trade agreement. [DELEGATION OF THE EU TO KOREA]
Ambassador of the European Union to Korea Michael Reiterer emphasized in a press conference on Wednesday that the Brexit deal negotiated between the EU and Prime Minister Theresa May is “the best and cannot be renegotiated.”

“The member states of the EU have negotiated through the chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, in a very concise, united manner,” Reiterer said as he addressed dozens of reporters at the EU delegation office in central Seoul Wednesday. “And the messages have always been consistent that the package, which has been negotiated, is the one which is the best and it cannot be renegotiated.”

The package, Reiterer said, has “the essential elements like the Withdrawal Agreement, the backstop, the respect for Good Friday and not separating the Republic of Ireland.”

The British Parliament on Tuesday voted against a “no-deal Brexit” and for sending May back to Brussels to hammer out a different exit deal - and different arrangements on the Irish border issue.

“The [British] parliament has expressed its will that a hard Brexit should not happen … We will see how the process will develop,” Reiterer said. “The situation is changing every day. Unfortunately, this is not what we call a win-win situation. This is a typical lose-lose situation.”

Adding that he will keep an eye out for Feb. 14, which may be the next chance for the House of Commons to decide the next steps, Reiterer said that it is too early to predict the result of the Brexit process.

“On the implementation phase, whatever I will say now is highly speculative, because we don’t know what kind of implementation phase it will be, what we will have to implement,” he said. “If it is a hard Brexit, there will be little to implement and there will be damage control mode. So let’s discuss the issue when we are, both of us, clear what will be implemented within which time frame.”

On a separate track from Brexit, the EU’s representative body in Seoul is looking to renegotiate the EU-Korea free trade agreement (FTA).

“We are now in the eighth year of implementation of the FTA,” Reiterer said. “A few developments which were not perceived at the time should be taken into consideration, like the whole area of e-trade, e-commerce and other issues that have not been covered [in the agreement].”

The European Union’s member states are Korea’s third-largest export market and Korea is the EU’s eighth-largest export partner. The EU’s main exports to Korea include machinery, appliances, transport equipment and chemical products. Korea’s exports to the EU also include machinery, appliances and transport equipment as well as plastics.

“The European Union is pressing for modernization of the agreement to bring it more in line with the free trade agreement we have just signed with Japan and the agreement we just signed with Canada,” said Nicholas Burge, head of the trade section at the EU delegation in Seoul.

The delegation celebrated 55 years of diplomatic ties between the EU and Korea in Seoul last year. It hosted visits by Federica Mogherini, the high representative of the European Union for foreign affairs and security policy, who met with South Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang Kyung-wha and Minister of Unification Cho Myoung-gyon; the secretary general of the EU diplomatic service, Helga Schmid; and Vera Jourova, the EU commissioner for justice, consumers and gender equality, who met with Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon and representatives of the country’s data protection authorities to accelerate bilateral talks on data protection.

In addition to dialogue on business relations, North Korea affairs, climate change and energy, the EU delegation is Seoul is hoping to see more progress on the human rights front.

“We hope that this year the government will take the lead in pushing legislations through on many areas,” said John Sagar, political counsellor of the EU delegation in Seoul. “The delegation will continue to support efforts to move from a moratorium on executions to final legal abolition of the death penalty. We look forward to the introduction of an alternative system to military service for conscientious objectives and hope this system will be in line with international standards.”

BY ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]