Brussels: A no-deal Brexit is a “very distinct possibility” and European Union citizens and businesses must be ready for Britain’s departure on October 31, the bloc’s executive said on Tuesday.
“Our working assumption is that there will be Brexit on October 31,” European Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said. Asked whether a no-deal exit was now the most likely scenario, she said: “I would say it is a very distinct possibility, which is precisely why we launch this final call to be prepared in case a no-deal Brexit occurs.” She added: “The best outcome would be a Brexit on the basis of the negotiated withdrawal agreement.”
The deeply divided British parliament had earlier rejected the deal London had negotiated with the bloc three times and Johnson has said the so-called Irish backstop must be removed from the agreement to ensure ratification.
The backstop is meant to uphold the invisible border between EU-member Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland after the United Kingdom leaves the EU. Brexit supporters in London and unionists in Northern Ireland fear it will tie the United Kingdom to the EU’s trading rules indefinitely.
Diplomatic sources dealing with Brexit in Brussels for the EU member states said they were informed by the Commission that British and EU negotiators would meet every Wednesday and Friday for talks.
Andreeva said while there had been an acceleration in talks since Johnson met EU leaders — German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron at the G7 summit in Biarritz last month — there was no breakthrough on substance.
“I cannot report any concrete proposals being made,” she said of the EU’s demand that London presents detailed and operational ideas on how the backstop could be replaced from day one after Brexit.
EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier is due to brief the 27 national ambassadors on Wednesday and the Commission will present an updated note on the bloc’s contingency preparations for a no-deal divorce.
It will include a possibility to grant emergency aid to businesses and countries affected through an EU Solidarity Fund — normally reserved for natural disasters — and another fund targeting communities suffering from job losses stemming from changes to trade patterns in a globalised world.
IRISH BORDER CONTROVERSY
On Tuesday, EU diplomats were told by the Commission — negotiating Brexit with London on behalf of the 27 remaining member states — that Johnson’s government kept delaying delivery of its plans for alternatives to the Irish backstop. “There is a degree of frustration in the Commission. Each time they ask for detail on these alternative arrangements they hear ‘We will get to it next week’,” one diplomat said.
“Nothing concrete has been tabled and it looks very unlikely that the British side would come up with anything concrete. They are running down the clock.”
“London doesn’t seem to be treating the island of Ireland as a single economic area anymore,” said another diplomat. The EU doubts London would be able to find acceptable ways to manage the Irish border after Brexit after three years of negotiations that failed to produce better solutions.
Corbyn: I am ready to fight an election
London: British opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said he was ready to fight an election but his priority was to prevent a no-deal Brexit. When asked if he would support an election under any circumstances, Corbyn said: “We want a general election as do all the other parties.” “Under the Fixed Term Parliament Act, it’s for the prime minister to introduce a measure on this or not — he hasn’t done so. The priority is to prevent a no-deal exit from the EU on the 31st and we’ll see what happens after that,” he said. He did not say directly if he would support a possible attempt by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to call an election.
US urges EU to negotiate ‘in good faith’
Dublin: US Vice-President Mike Pence used a visit to Ireland on Tuesday to urge the European Union to negotiate “in good faith” with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and reach a Brexit deal that respects British sovereignty. “The United States supports the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union but we also recognise the unique challenges on your border and I can assure you we will continue to encourage the United Kingdom and Ireland to ensure any Brexit deal respects the Good Friday Agreement,” Pence told a joint news conference with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar. “But as the deadline for Brexit approaches, we urge Ireland and the European Union as well to negotiate in good faith with Prime Minister Johnson and work to reach an agreement that respects the United Kingdom’s sovereignty and minimises disruption to commerce.”
Rebel Tories unconvinced after Johnson meeting
London: The group of Tories seeking to block a no-deal Brexit were unconvinced by Johnson’s arguments after meeting with him in Downing Street on Tuesday before the parliament vote. The meeting was “professional” but Johnson didn’t explain sufficiently how he still has enough time to get a deal before October 31, especially since parliament will be suspended for five weeks, the person said. The prime minister didn’t explain why the government hasn’t yet given the EU a concrete alternative to the backstop, the person said. The group also challenged Johnson’s argument that their plan to take control of the order paper is undermining his negotiations with the EU, saying he hasn’t convinced them that any real negotiation is taking place.