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‘UK deadlock makes no-deal Brexit more likely,’ says EU’s Michel Barnier

Barnier said a long extension to the April 12 exit date had “significant risks for the EU” and a “strong justification would be needed” if the May government sought it.

world Updated: Apr 02, 2019 20:03 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Michel Barnier.,European Union’s chief negotiator,Theresa May
File photo of European Union’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier.

Continuing deadlock in the House of Commons makes it “day after day, more likely” that the UK will leave the European Union on April 12 without an agreement, according to European Union’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier.

The warning came after the house on Monday night again rejected alternatives to the withdrawal package reached between the Theresa May government and Brussels. Barnier called the situation “a serious crisis”.

The UK leaving without an agreement is considered the worst-case scenario due to its debilitating impact on the economy, besides disrupting rules and regulations affecting every aspect of everyday life developed and implemented over 40 years of the UK’s membership of the EU.

Barnier said a long extension to the April 12 exit date had “significant risks for the EU” and a “strong justification would be needed” if the May government sought it. A group of MPs announced plans on Tuesday to force May to seek the extension.

Barnier said in Brussels: “No deal was never our desired or intended scenario. But the EU27 is now prepared. It becomes, day after day, more likely. This is a serious crisis and no-one can be pleased with what is happening in the UK currently.”

He told the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee that “things are somewhat hanging on the decisions of the House of Commons”, and that the deal was negotiated with the UK, “not against the UK”.

The cross-party group of MPs intends to force the May government to extend Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty beyond April 12. Article 50 sets down the two-year procedure for a member-state leaving the European Union.

Until the April 12 was agreed, the scheduled departure date was March 29, but it was missed due to the House of Commons not endorsing a withdrawal package agreed with Brussels.

May was closeted with her cabinet on Tuesday for what is called a “marathon meeting” to decide the way forward.

Senior Labour leader Yvette Cooper, who is leading the new bid, said: “We are now in a really dangerous situation with a serious and growing risk of no deal in 10 days’ time. The prime minister has a responsibility to prevent that happening. She needs to put forward a proposal, including saying how long an extension she thinks we need to sort things out.”

She added: “If the government won’t act urgently, then parliament has a responsibility to try to ensure that happens even though we are right up against the deadline…So that means that whatever happens in the next few days, the UK needs an extension beyond April 12 if we are to avoid the damage and chaos of no-deal.”

First Published: Apr 02, 2019 19:03 IST