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UK needs to set out path to ‘orderly’ Brexit, says Barnier

UK News | Published:

The EU’s chief negotiator said he ‘profoundly’ regrets the Commons vote to reject Theresa May’s deal.

Michel Barnier

The British Government needs to explain how it intends to proceed with Brexit following the defeat of Theresa May’s plan in the Commons, the EU’s chief negotiator has said.

Michel Barnier said he “profoundly” regretted the vote by MPs on Tuesday to reject the Withdrawal Agreement hammered out with Brussels.

Speaking in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, he said the vote showed the “political conditions” were not yet present in London to ratify the agreement.

“It is up to the British authorities today or tomorrow to assess the outcome of this vote and up to the British Government to indicate how we are going to take things forward on March 29 to an orderly withdrawal,” he said.

Mr Barnier said that while the EU wanted to avoid a disorderly Brexit the bloc could not rule out a no-deal break.

“An orderly withdrawal will remain our absolute priority in the coming weeks,” he said.

Michel Barnier
Michel Barnier addresses the European Parliament (AP)

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“That said, we cannot exclude any scenario and this is particularly true of the scenario we always wanted to avoid. That is the no-deal scenario.”

Mr Barnier indicated the EU side was ready to respond positively if the Mrs May was prepared to rethink her “red lines” in the negotiations.

“If the United Kingdom chooses to shift its red lines in the future and it makes that choice to be more ambitious to go beyond a simple free trade agreement – which would be quite something – then the European Union will … immediately go hand in hand with that development and … give a favourable response,” he said.

He made clear that any agreement had to retain the Northern Ireland “backstop” intended to ensure there is no return of a hard order with the Republic.

“The backstop which we agreed to with the UK must remain a backstop. It must remain a credible backstop,” he said.

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