Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 20 May 2019

No-deal Brexit risk has increased, says EU Commissioner at Davos

Pierre Moscovi says ball is in UK's hands while British ministers continue debate

Britain is in deadlock over Brexit, with major opposition over Theresa May's proposed deal. AP
Britain is in deadlock over Brexit, with major opposition over Theresa May's proposed deal. AP

A senior EU official warned Wednesday that the risk of a no deal Brexit had increased in the last few weeks as Brussels issued new calls on London to resolve the impasse.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, European Union Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said it was up to Britain to tell the EU what it wants.

He added that the EU is “ready and waiting” for Britain to make the next move.“

"Nobody wants a no-deal (Brexit), that is clear. The British parliament doesn’t want a no-deal, the British government doesn’t want a no-deal, and the EU is not willing a no-deal, so we need to explore all options which are not a no-deal,” Moscovici said.

The comments came as Michel Barnier, the EU negotiator on Brexit, said the 27 remaining members of the bloc were prepared to make far reaching changes to the agreement on the scope of the future relations relationship with Britain.

"If the UK government wants to be more ambitious in its future relationship which is not part of the withdrawal agreement, we can do so, and then come to an agreement on the entire package. That would make the question of the backstop less prominent," he said. "Looking at it objectively, I have the impression that the backstop is not the central issue. Ultimately, the debate in Britain is about what the future of the UK will look like. I believe that we can overcome the current difficulties when we discuss that issue together."

Britain’s International Trade minister Liam Fox said on Monday that delaying or cancelling Brexit would be a “calamitous outcome” compared to the UK falling out of the EU with no deal.

"There is no doubt that leaving with a deal and minimising disruption both to the UK and our EU trading partners is in our best interest," the international development secretary told the BBC.

"But I think the most calamitous outcome would be for Parliament, having promised to respect the result of the referendum, to turn around and say it wouldn't."

Mr Fox’s views contradict the view of his fellow cabinet minister and Chancellor Phillip Hammond, who only just last week told UK businesses not to worry about the prospect of a no deal as parliament would block it.

“I can simply as a parliamentarian say it is clear to me there is a large majority in the Commons that is opposed to no deal in any circumstances,” Hammond said.

The UK is expected to fall onto World Trading Organisation (WTO) trading terms in late March should no withdrawal deal be agreed with the EU.

A major parliamentary vote is expected to take place next week. Labour MP Yvette Cooper tabled an amendment saying Prime Minister Theresa May would have to seek an extension to Article 50 until the end of the year if MPs do not approve a Brexit deal by 26 February.

Leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg said his allies were fighting for a no-deal outcome and predicted that Mrs May could suspend parliament to stop the amendment becoming law.

"Yvette Cooper will not stop us,” he said.

Updated: January 23, 2019 09:10 PM