Organising a second referendum on Brexit would take a year, the prime minister's office told reporters on Thursday. The analysis of the time for legislation, plus a campaign, for the vote came in a one-page document given to MPs participating in prime minister Theresa May's cross-party talks, in the wake of the defeat of her Brexit bill, but surviving a no-confidence vote on the government.
Italy's former prime minister and powerbroker Silvio Berlusconi said on Thursday that he will run in this May's European elections. The 82-year-old media billionaire, who is also the leader of the opposition, centre-right Forza Italia, will be eligible to stand again for public office after the expiration of a ban related to a tax-fraud conviction, which prevented him from running in last year's general election.
MEPs voted on Thursday to triple the proposed EU funding for promoting democracy, rule of law and fundamental rights across the EU, including through civil society organisations. The European Parliament increased the planned funds in the long-term EU budget (2021-2027) to €1.834bn, compared to the EU Commission's original €642m proposals. Parliament approved its position by 426 votes to 152, with 45 abstentions.
MEPs on Thursday voted in favour of draft rules to suspend EU budget payments to countries jeopardising rule of law in their countries, with 397 in support and 158 against. Under the proposed rules, first tabled by the EU commission in its long-term EU budget plans, governments interfering with courts or failing to tackle corruption will risk suspension of EU funds. The issue will be negotiated with member states.
Liberal MEP Guy Verhofstadt's support for an amendment which called on European Central Bank president Mario Draghi to leave the controversial Group of Thirty, was accidental, a spokesman told EUobserver, after it reported on the official voting data. "He pushed the wrong button by mistake," said the spokesman. The record will be corrected. It will not affect the outcome: the amendment was defeated. Including Verhofstadt, 440 MEPs rejected it.
The UK parliament will debate and vote on a 'Plan B' Brexit plan from Theresa May's government on 29 January, it was announced on Thursday. May suffered one of the biggest defeats in British political history earlier this week, when her withdrawal agreement - negotiated for two years with the EU - was defeated by 230 votes. There is no detail yet on where a 'Plan B' deal would differ.
Guy Verhofstadt was only one of two Liberal MEPs to support an amendment that called on European Central Bank president Mario Draghi to leave the secretive Group of 30, voting data published Thursday showed. All but five MEPs from the European People's Party and all but 20 Social Democrats rejected the amendment, which was supported by all Green and GUE/NGL MEPs and most eurosceptic MEPs.
EU countries have signalled they might accept a delay to Brexit as British prime minister Theresa May began cross-party talks on how to avoid a no-deal outcome.
Russian president Vladimir Putin warned western nations not to destabilise the Balkans, ahead of a visit on Thursday to Serbia, a country seeking to join the European Union. Putin is set to meet Serbia's president Aleksandar Vucic and give him an award, the Order of Alexander Nevsky, which has also been handed out to close Russian allies in Belarus, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan.
Germany's government is mulling excluding China's Huawei Technologies from an auction on setting up fifth-generation (5G) mobile networks, reported Handelsblatt. The paper cites unnamed government officials amid broader fears that the firm does not meet the required security standards. The US has accused Huawei of acting on the behalf of the Chinese state, increasing the risk of industrial and cyber espionage.
Sweden is poised for a new government on Friday, following four months of deadlock. The parliament is set to back Sweden's Social Democratic leader Stefan Lofven and support his centrist government following a deal with the Left Party. Sweden has been without a formal government since an inconclusive election last September.
British leader Theresa May narrowly survived a no confidence vote in parliament in London on Wednesday by 325 votes to 306. The vote had been called by the opposition Labour Party after May suffered a crushing defeat, one day earlier, on the Brexit withdrawal deal she had negotiated with the EU. "We must find solutions that are negotiable and command sufficient support in this House," she said Wednesday.
A large majority rejected an amendment which would have called on the ECB to "put an end to the president's membership of the G30".
A trade deal with Morocco was endorsed by the European Parliament but is likely to end up challenged at the European Court of Justice in Strasbourg.
In an apparent effort to help the British PM build some form of coalition with opposition MPs for a Brexit deal, EU negotiator Michel Barnier said the bloc was ready to talk about the future relations part of the deal.
Spain's centre-left prime minister Pedro Sanchez proposed to MEPs on Wednesday that the EU should have a "binding European gender equality strategy, to fight the gender gap, the higher unemployment rate amongst women, and the higher level of precarious working conditions suffered by women predominantly". Sanchez's cabinet consists of a majority of women, a rarity in Europe. On Tuesday, MEPs repeated a previous request for such a strategy.
UKIP MEP and Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage said on Wednesday in Strasbourg that the EU would be in for a big surprise if it forced the UK to hold a second referendum. The EU has "a great tradition, seen with Ireland and Denmark. You make people vote again", he said, adding it would lead to another Leave victory. "We would win it - with a bigger majority".
Germany's domestic spy agency, the BfV, is to start monitoring the far-right AfD party in a move endorsed by the government, but decried as a witch-hunt by the party's leaders.
French president Emmanuel Macron kicked off a two-month national debate tour on Tuesday, meeting some 600 mayors from across Normandy in the northern town of Grand Bourgtheroulde. The town hall-style discussions, announced in a six-page letter on Sunday, are meant to address issues raised by the 'yellow vest' protests and will be broadcast live. Police used tear gas to disperse protesters gathered outside the venue and arrested several.