Tuesday 25 June 2019

Brexit latest: European Commission prepared for a 'likely' no-deal after May suffers third rejection of her withdrawal agreement

  • MPs have rejected the withdrawal agreement by 286 votes to 344, majority 58.
  • EU leaders are set to meet at an emergency summit on two days before Britain's new departure date
  • Varadkar warns it's up to UK to say how to avoid no-deal scenario
British Prime Minister Theresa May speaks in the House of Commons during a Brexit debate. Photo: House of Commons/PA Wire
British Prime Minister Theresa May speaks in the House of Commons during a Brexit debate. Photo: House of Commons/PA Wire

Cormac McQuinn and Andrew Woodcock

THE European Commission reacted to the Westminster vote saying that the EU is now "fully prepared" for a "likely" no-deal scenario at midnight on April 12.

The UK Parliament was this afternoon voting on a stripped-down version of Mrs May's twice-defeated divorce deal agreed with Brussels.

But it was defeated by 58 votes - a major improvement on previous defeats for Mrs May, but still a significant defeat.

The British Prime Minister said the implications of the vote were “grave” adding: “I fear we are reaching the limits of the process in this House.”

It is widely believed that the result may now result in the British government going back to the European Union and asking for a further - much longer - extension to Article 50.

Britain was supposed to have left the EU today but was allowed delay its departure while Mrs May battles to try to get a consensus on how and when to leave.

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May (centre left) speaking in the House of Commons in London Photo:AFP/Getty Images
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May (centre left) speaking in the House of Commons in London Photo:AFP/Getty Images

That seems as far away as ever, but her withdrawal agreement is almost certainly now dead in the water.

The European Commission reacted to the Westminster vote saying that the EU is now "fully prepared" for a "likely" no-deal senario at midnight on April 12.

A statement said: "The Commission regrets the negative vote in the House of Commons today."

It noted that Article 50 had been extended to April 12 and said: "It will be for the UK to indicate the way forward before that date, for consideration by the European Council."

The statement said: "A “no-deal” scenario on 12 April is now a likely scenario.

"The EU has been preparing for this since December 2017 and is now fully prepared for a “no-deal” scenario at midnight on 12 April."

It insisted that "The EU will remain united."

The Commission also warned that the benefits of the Withdrawal Agreement, including a transition period, will "in no circumstances be replicated in a “no-deal” scenario".

It also said: "Sectoral mini-deals are not an option".

EU leaders are set to meet at an emergency summit on two days before Britain's new departure date.

European Council president Donald Tusk responded to the Westminster vote saying on Twitter: "In view of the rejection of the Withdrawal Agreement by the House of Commons, I have decided to call a European Council on 10 April".

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has warned that it's up to the UK to say how it will avoid a no-deal Brexit which he said is a "growing possibility".

Mr Varadkar said: "It is now up to the UK to indicate how it plans to proceed in order to avoid a No Deal scenario.

“The European Council has agreed unanimously that the Withdrawal Agreement will not be re-opened."

He said that Ireland has been "preparing intensively for a No Deal scenario" but added: "no one should under-estimate the difficulties that a No Deal will present, for all of us, including the UK."

Mr Varadkar said: "It is not clear that the UK has fully understood that No Deal is not off the agenda. Rather, it’s a growing possibility."

He welcomed the decision of European Council  President Donald Tusk to call an emergency meeting of EU leaders on April 10, two days before the UK could crash out without a deal.

Mr Varadkar noted that he himself will meet French President Emmanual Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel next week and will speaker to other heads of government by phone.

He said: "It is now incumbent on the UK to chart a realistic way forward for consideration at that Council meeting."

Mr Varadkar also said: “I believe we must be open to a long extension should the United Kingdom decide to fundamentally reconsider its approach to Brexit and put back on the table options previously ruled out.

"I believe that will result in a generous and understanding response from the 27 [remaining member states]”.

Mrs May, speaking after the defeat, said: "I think it should be a matter of profound regret to every member of this House that once again we have been unable to support leaving the European Union in an orderly fashion.

"The implications of the House's decision are grave.

"The legal default now is that the United Kingdom is due to leave the European Union on 12 April - in just 14 days' time.

"This is not enough time to agree, legislate for and ratify a deal, and yet the House has been clear it will not permit leaving without a deal.

"And so we will have to agree an alternative way forward."

Mrs May went on: "The European Union has been clear that any further extension will need to have a clear purpose and will need to be agreed unanimously by the heads of the other 27 member states ahead of April 12.

"It is also almost certain to involve the UK being required to hold European parliamentary elections.

"On Monday, this House will continue the process to see if there is a stable majority for a particular alternative version of our future relationship with the EU. Of course, all of the options will require the Withdrawal Agreement.

"I fear we are reaching the limits of this process in this House. This House has rejected no-deal. It has rejected no Brexit. On Wednesday it rejected all the variations of the deal on the table, and today it has rejected approving the Withdrawal Agreement alone and continuing a process on the future.

"This Government will continue to press the case for the orderly Brexit that the result of the referendum demands."

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called for a general election unless the Prime Minister was willing to find an alternative deal.

Mr Corbyn told MPs: "The House has been clear this deal now has to change, there has to be an alternative found.

"And if the Prime Minister can't accept that then she must go - not at an indeterminate date in the future but now, so that we can decide the future of this country through a general election."

The deputy chairman of the European Research Group of Tory Eurosceptics, Steve Baker, called on Mrs May to step down immediately.

Declaring that this should be "the final defeat" for the PM's deal - already rejected by 230 votes in January and 149 in March - Mr Baker said: "I regret to say it is time for Theresa May to follow through on her words and make way so that a new leader can deliver a Withdrawal Agreement which will be passed by Parliament."

Online Editors

Also in Business