EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier says that Britain’s disorderly exit from the European Union without a deal is becoming more likely by the day after the U.K. parliament again rejected alternatives to the government’s unpopular divorce deal.
Despite the downbeat assessment, Barnier did say that “we can still hope to avoid it” through intensive work in London ahead of an April 10 EU summit. A no-deal Brexit could come as soon two days after that.
Despite the difficulties of a chaotic exit, “the EU will be able to manage,” Barnier said, although he warned that “not everything will be smooth.”
Exit without a deal would affect trade and travel overnight, with new checks on borders and new regulations on dealings between Britain and the 27 remaining EU nations.
The EU had negotiated a long transition period with British Prime Minister Theresa May, but it was linked to the overall agreement that the U.K. parliament has rejected up to now.
“There is no transition if there is no deal,” Barnier warned, and the sudden exit would be all the more frenzied because of it.
Barnier insisted the EU would not renegotiate the 585-page withdrawal agreement but said he was willing to open up the political declaration with came with the legal text.
“If the U.K. so wishes, we are ready to rework the political declaration as long as the fundamental principles of the EU are respected,” he said.
In Britain, though, political chaos continued to reign.
With just 11 days until the U.K. must come up with a new plan or crash out of the bloc in chaos, the House of Commons threw out four options designed to replace May’s thrice-rejected Brexit deal — though in some cases it was close.
Monday’s result left May’s Conservative government facing difficult and risky choices. It can gamble on a fourth attempt to push the deal through Parliament, let Britain tumble out of the bloc without a deal, or roll the dice by seeking a snap election to shake up Parliament.
May has summoned her Cabinet for a marathon meeting Tuesday to thrash out the options. The prime minister, who is renowned for her dogged determination, could try to bring her Brexit agreement back for a fourth time later this week.
Monday’s votes revealed a preference among lawmakers for a softer form of Brexit — but not a majority to make it happen.