LONDON: Failure to strike a deal that ushers Britain out of the European Union in an orderly way is not an option Brussels wants to consider, its chief negotiator said on Monday as the EU gave a final green light for him to launch talks next month.
Britain’s Brexit Secretary David Davis said at the weekend that Prime Minister Theresa May’s government was ready to walk out without a deal. “That’s not my option,” Michel Barnier told reporters after ministers from the other 27 member states handed him a formal mandate to negotiate with London.
“I don’t want to imagine … a breakdown of negotiations,” the former French minister added. “I would advise everyone to explain what the consequences would be of ‘no deal’.”
May, who in March launched a process that will take Britain out of the Union, deal or no deal, in March 2019, has said she would rather leave legal and financial issues in limbo than agree a “bad deal”.
Campaigning for an election May has called for June 8, Davis told a Sunday newspaper: “We need to be able to walk away.”
Barnier and other EU figures say the ensuing legal chaos would hurt Britain more than the rest of the bloc, though it would disrupt business and create uncertainty for expatriate EU citizens on both sides of the new EU-UK frontier.
EU ministers meeting in Brussels put a final legal gloss on governments’ instructions to Barnier. He expects to sit down for the first time with British negotiators in the week starting June 19 and will then brief EU leaders later that week at a regular summit exactly a year after the June 23 Brexit vote.