OFFICIALS in the European Union ARE working on plans for a no-deal scenario with Britain, Michel Barnier’s adviser has revealed.
Stefaan De Rynck admitted today that even though no one in the bloc wanted that outcome because it would have “serious consequences”, they are preparing for it.
Candice McKenzie/Institute for Government Stefaan De Rynck admitted that leaders of the 27 other countries were preparing for a no-deal outcome
Speaking at an Institute for Government event in Westminster this lunchtime, the official said: “There is a clear negative impact from no deal, I think that is clear, for both sides… especially for the UK economy, but it not a scenario that we want to work towards.
“We are preparing for it, that is for sure, the 27, but it is not something we in the negotiation room want to bring in that negotiation room…
“If there is no deal as of April 2019, Britain is for the EU what any other third country is. With whom we do not have a preferential trade deal. That has serious consequences.”
It is the first time the EU has admitted it is working on contingency plans in case talks fail – and comes just days after French President Emmanuel Macron dismissed Britain’s own plans for a No Deal Brexit as “bluffing”.
And Mr De Rynck’s remarks directly contradict EU Council President Donald Tusk who earlier this month said the EU wouldn’t start working on a No Deal scenario until December at the earliest.
His words go further than that of his colleague Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, who raised the prospect of no-deal last week.
EU27 is not working on “no deal” scenario. We negotiate in good faith and hope for “sufficient progress” by December. #Brexit
— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) October 10, 2017
He insisted that “the EU is not working on such a scenario” but “if sufficient progress hasn’t been reached, then – together with our UK friends – we will have to think about where we are heading”.
Tory MPs said the revelation was a sign Brussels was finally taking Britain’s threat to walk away without a deal seriously.
Jacob Rees-Mogg told The Sun: “Our preparations for no deal are clearly putting pressure on the EU which desperately needs our money.
“Our tougher negotiating stance is clearly giving Brussels the collywobbles.”
Ex-Tory leader Iain Duncan said yesterday’s developments had humiliated Remainers opposed to Britain threatening to leave without a deal.
He said: “It shows that those Remainers who moan about the government preparing for no free trade deal must be embarrassed to find the EU is as well. It shows the EU believe we are serious.”
A Number 10 spokesman said: “Both sides are obviously preparing for all scenarios as you would expect.”
After EU leaders last week said they would privately start preparing for trade talks to begin in December, all hopes for reaching a smooth deal are pinned on the crunch summit next month.
However, he was optimistic that if things go smoothly from now on, a transition period could be “wrapped up” very quickly.
The EU adviser was asked whether he could envisage it being sorted within the first three months of 2018, to which he replied it would be “certainly possible” to do speedily.
Institute for Government He appeared on a panel this lunchtime where he also played down the prospect of withdrawing the Article 50 notification Getty Images – Getty Theresa May wants a two-year transition period after Brexit
Mr De Rynck also played down the prospect of Article 50 being reversed, something Mr Tusk also floated this week.
The EU Council boss had said: “It is up to London how this will end: With a good deal, no deal or no Brexit”.
Theresa May has insisted we will be going ahead with our EU exit, regardless of his suggestions.
But Mr De Rynck insisted today that it was the EU’s role to “engineer the process of withdrawal”.
He said that any transition period had to be “time-limited” – but refused to say how long it should last.
Reports today said EU bosses are set to shoot down Mrs May’s demands for a two-year transition, because Eurocrats want to limit the length to 20 months.
Top negotiator Michel Barnier said earlier this week: “To my mind, it makes sense that it covers the financial period, so until 2020.”
Mr De Rynck also used his speech to press Britain again to state how much it will be prepared to pay to move talks on – because it was delivering “uncertainty” and “political risk” for both sides.
Our officials have yet to put a figure on the deal because we don’t yet know what our future relationship will look like – and are insisting on examining the bill line-by-line.
But Mr Barnier’s adviser said: “Before the EU can engage in negotiations on the future, it must know how the UK intends to honour current obligations
“How can one explain to parliaments that the EU started a new relationship without first clarifying commitments?”
EPA Donald Tusk warned if Brussels fails Brexit ‘stress test’ of divorce bill the ‘negotiations will end in our defeat’
Mr De Rynck’s stark warnings came as Brexit minister Steve Baker told MPs fresh legislation would be needed for any transition period on top of the weighty EU Withdrawal bill.
In a committee hearing he confirmed separate laws would be needed to cover transitional arrangements – meaning MPs should get a vote on those arrangements.
Mr Baker warned there was a “substantial risk of holes in the statue book if the EU Withdrawal Act was blocked in the Commons.
Brexit Secretary David Davis was dragged to the Commons yesterday to explain himself after enraging MPs on Wednesday by signalling they may not get a vote on the Brexit deal.
Speaking yesterday he said they would – but that it would only be ‘take it or leave it’ vote on accepting the agreement with Brussels – not a chance to reopen the negotiations.
Arch Europhile and ex-Cabinet Minister Nicky Morgan warned that Tory rebels were “deadly serious” about blocking the Brexit Bill unless a vote was written into the legislation.
EU’s Donald Tusk: Idea of Britain ‘having cake and eating it’ on Brexit is finished