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Brexit: EU prepares for “any scenario”, even for no deal. “London should clarify its intentions”

(Strasbourg) Regret, concern, renewed commitment to dialogue but also firmness: Strasbourg gives voice to different feelings while maintaining a common line on Brexit – London should clarify its intentions. A debate is underway at the European Parliament between the EU institutions, following yesterday’s statement by the EC president on the rejection by Westminster of the EU-UK withdrawal agreement. “Time is almost up”. The EU’s chief negotiator for Brexit Michel Barnier said: “with only 10 weeks to go until 29 March, when the UK is due to leave the EU, the UK has no clear line. The deal was rejected, but no alternative was proposed”. Dialogue will continue between the two sides, Barnier said, but “it is now up to the British Government to indicate how we are going to take things forward. We remain calm, united, and continue to choose dialogue and transparency”. Some MEPs did not conceal their frustration: “The Parliament in London is divided, it cannot decide and is dragging its feet”. Some would like a “no deal”, others a second referendum and still others more time to reach an agreement. The president of the European Parliament did not mince his words: There is “no clear manifestation of a positive majority which would define an alternative project”. Syed Kamall, leader of Britain’s Conservative MEPs, took the floor but beat about the bush without giving convincing answers. Melania Ciot spoke on behalf of the Romanian Presidency of the EU Council, saying: “London should clarify its position; in the meantime, we must prepare for any scenario, including a no-deal scenario”, that is, a no-deal Brexit. Liberal MEP Guy Verhofstadt said: “The UK’s political parties must cooperate, they must agree a line to overcome the impasse; Brexit is not a domestic issue, it originated in the UK but affects the whole of Europe”.

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