Europe News

EU's Barnier: no-deal Brexit more likely by the day, three options left

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Britain has become more likely in the recent days to crash out of the European Union without a divorce agreement, the bloc’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said on Tuesday.

“Over the last days a no-deal scenario has become more likely, but we can still hope to avoid it,” Barnier said, adding the EU was ready to accept Britain staying the EU’s customs union or a relationship akin to the one the EU has with Norway.

Speaking at an event in Brussels after the British parliament rejected alternatives to Prime Minister Theresa May’s divorce deal, Barnier said Britain now had three choices before the April 12 leaving date.

“The UK should now indicate the way forward or indicate a plan,” Barnier said. “More today than ever.”

He said Britain could still accept the stalled deal negotiated by May, reiterating it was “the only way” for Britain to leave the bloc in an orderly way. Other options were the most damaging no-deal Brexit, or a long delay of the UK’s leaving date, Barnier said, adding the factious UK parliament would hold the responsibility for these.

Barnier said a long postponement of Brexit would entail organizing European Parliament elections in the United Kingdom in May and London naming its representatives for the new European Commission.

The Frenchman said there was no added value to Brexit and stressed the 27 EU states staying on together were now ready for an abrupt split.

“Being prepared for no-deal doesn’t mean that everything will be smooth. There will be disruptions, there will be problems. Being prepared means all unforeseen disruptions could be managed by the EU,” Barnier said.

EU leaders including May meet in Brussels on April 10 to decide on next steps.

Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska, writing by Jan Strupczewski