- The EU is putting plans in place for Britain to crash out with no deal, a senior Brussels official claims.
- Stefaan De Rynck, Michel Barnier’s advisor, tells a London event that EU figures are taking a no-deal Brexit very seriously.
LONDON — An advisor to EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has admitted that Brussels is actively preparing for Britain to crash out with no deal.
Stefaan De Rynck, an advisor to the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, told a London event on Thursday that the bloc “did not want” a no-deal Brexit but is preparing for that eventuality.
“There is a clear negative impact from no deal, I think that that is clear, for both sides but especially for the UK economy. But it is not a scenario people want to work towards,” De Rynck told an Institute for Government event.
“We are preparing for it, that is for sure, at 27 [the other 27 EU states] but it is not a scenario that we in the negotiation room want to bring in that negotiation room.”
Prime Minister Theresa May and Brexit Secretary David Davis have in recent weeks publicly acknowledged that Britain could leave the EU with no deal in place at the end of Article 50 talks in March 2019.
May told MPs earlier this month: “While I believe it is profoundly in all our interests for the negotiations to succeed, it is also our responsibility as a Government to prepare for every eventuality, so that is exactly what we are doing.”
De Rynck said the chances of reaching a deal will be improved by “calm and rational” negotiating, and dismissed Davis’ claim that talks will go right to the wire, claiming the EU does not want to be “playing with time.”
Transition can be agreed “very quickly”
De Rynck went on to add that he believes transition deal can be “wrapped up very quickly” once “sufficient progress” is made on phase one of talks.
The chief Brussels official said that a time-limited transition deal could be agreed “very quick” as soon as the issues of citizens’ rights, Britain’s financial obligations, and the Irish border are settled.
“The possible transition could… be wrapped up very quickly. But that all depends on firstly reaching sufficient progress and secondly any additional guidelines that the European Council will give,” De Rynck said.
Those comments will come as a source of encouragement for Prime Minister Theresa May and British negotiators amid increasing concern of a no-deal Brexit and its likely implications for the national economy.
“In terms of the guidelines for the future relationship as well as the possible transition, all of that can come very quickly,” De Rynck said.
In her Florence speech, May announced her intention to negotiate a two-year transition period in which most aspects of Britain’s current relationship with the EU will continue, including “current terms” of single market access.
De Rynck suggested that such a deal could be possible but stressed that it must be “time-limited” and adhere to EU law and regulations.
“It has to be time limited, that is absolutely clear for the EU. It is part of our European Council guidelines… It cannot be open-ended transition, this is not something we want to accept,” he said.
On Thursday it was reported that the EU is likely to offer Britain a transitional period lasting 20 months, rather than 24 months as requested by May, as this would coincide with the end of the bloc’s seven-year budget.
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