Europe has breathed a collective sight of relief after EU officials announced that serious discussion of Brexit would be banned at an upcoming leaders’ summit.
Ahead of Thursday’s meeting in the Romanian city of Sibiu, one senior EU official said the summit would be “in principle Brexit-free”.
For two years now the UK has repeatedly crashed EU meetings about other issues and steered discussions towards Brexit – often to the great annoyance of other countries.
But since April, when the leaders agreed to delay the UK’s departure until October, the continent has gone on a “Brexit holiday” and is using the time to discuss other issues.
Theresa May is staying away from the Sibiu meeting, though the UK is expected to be represented in the margins.
The summit is intended to be a relaunch of the EU after a series of crises like Brexit, migration, and economic problems in the eurozone. Its date was originally picked so that it would take place after Britain’s departure, a plan which has since been overtaken by events.
Speaking at a lunchtime press conference in Brussels, Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, summed up the view in the EU capital with a quip.
“Everyone understands English,” he said, as he switched languages from French. “No one understands England – but everyone understands English.”
He struck an ambivalent tone on Brexit, telling reporters: “I don’t have fears, I don’t have hopes