BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union will not grant Britain another short delay to Brexit if UK lawmakers fail to ratify the stalled divorce agreement by April 12, the head of the bloc’s executive European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, said on Wednesday.
Juncker spoke after British Prime Minister Theresa May announced on Tuesday evening that she would request a second Brexit delay beyond the current cliff-edge date of April 12.
May is seeking to agree a deal with the main opposition Labour Party that would unlock ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement she negotiated with Brussels, which the British lower house of parliament has rejected three times.
“The best way forward is the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement,” Juncker told the European Parliament. “The 12th of April is the ultimate deadline for approval of the Withdrawal Agreement by the House of Commons.”
“If it has not done so by then, no further short extension will be possible.”
“A ‘no-deal’ at midnight on the 12th of April is now a very likely scenario. It is not the outcome I want. But it is an outcome for which I have made sure the EU is ready,” he said.
He said the bloc was ready to upgrade a proposed blueprint for new EU-UK relations after Brexit from the one already negotiated by May. Labour has said it wants a customs union in the future.
Juncker reiterated that Britain would not get a transition period after Brexit without ratifying the exit deal: “UK will be affected more than EU because there is no such thing as a ‘managed’ or ‘negotiated no-deal’ and there is no such thing as a ‘no-deal transition’.”
“I will work until the last moment to avoid a ‘no-deal’ outcome,” he added.
But he also made clear that the EU would set firm conditions for restarting talks with Britain on new trade ties should the worst-case scenario materialise.
The bloc would make such talks conditional on the UK honouring its EU financial obligations, guaranteeing citizens’ rights and agreeing on how to run the sensitive Irish border — a key reason for UK lawmakers’ rejection of May’s deal.
Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska, Jan Strupczewski; Editing by Catherine Evans