A no-deal Brexit will "never be the decision of the EU," the bloc's chief negotiator Michel Barnier said Tuesday.
His statement, made after briefing EU ministers attending the General Affairs Council in Luxembourg, will offer reassurance to businesses and citizens on both sides of the Channel who are concerned that the U.K. could crash out of the EU on Friday. April 12 is currently the legal exit date unless EU leaders grant an extension at a special summit in Brussels Wednesday evening.
France has adopted a particularly hard line in public, with ministers stressing in recent days that an extension will not be granted automatically. “The position of France is the same, we think that this request is neither acquired nor automatic and that it is important for this request to come out of a credible political plan that explains what will happen during this extension,” said France's EU Minister Amélie de Montchalin on her way into the meeting.
Paris is also keen to avoid Brexit continuing to be a distraction from other EU business during an extension of potentially many months. “We are looking for a solution that will allow the advancement of the European project, maintain its content and ambition,” she said.
Austrian EU minister Gernot Blümel said that no deal would remain on the table if EU leaders are not satisfied with London's plan. “There is still a possibility for that, unfortunately. Our priority is to preserve the unity of the EU27 but also to avoid a no deal,” he said.
But diplomats stress that there is no appetite among EU27 countries to be seen as the ones actively causing economic pain to the U.K. and a handful of EU countries by forcing a no-deal scenario. Jean Asselborn, Luxembourg's minister for foreign affairs, replied “certainly not” to a reporter asking whether London would crash out of the EU on Friday.
In his press conference, Barnier said that cross-party talks between Theresa May's government and the opposition Labour Party had created a new dynamic which needed time to play out.
“A new element in this very, very serious and complex context we’re operating within is of course the fact that we have had cross-party discussions,” he said. “This cross-party dialogue is the new element which could lead to a request which we will be then willing not only to agree but also to implement for our future relation.”
He said the length of the Brexit delay was now the subject of intense discussion. "The duration of the extension has got to be in line in any case with the purpose being striven for. It’s got to serve a purpose," he said.
On their way into the meeting, EU ministers called on London to come forward with a plan for how to use the extra time.
“EU leaders this week are open to an extension but they certainly want to see a plan to go with that extension so that everybody knows that time has been used to try to conclude the first phase of Brexit,” Ireland's Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney told reporters.
Other EU27 ministers had a similar message. “Most important is the U.K. makes clear what solution they will offer to avoid a hard Brexit,” said Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok.
At a summit three weeks ago, leaders agreed that London must either pass the Withdrawal Agreement and leave by May 22 or, if it doesn't, then it has to come up with an alternative proposal by Friday. U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May sent a letter last week formally requesting an extension until June 30 in which she pledged to start preparations for the European Parliament election taking place at the end of next month.
سایت تابناک از انتشار نظرات حاوی توهین و افترا و نوشته شده با حروف لاتین (فینگیلیش) معذور است.