EU’s Barnier says no-deal Brexit is default scenario

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Union’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said on Wednesday that no-deal Brexit was the default scenario and the fact that majority of the House of Commons was against it would not prevent it from happening.

European Union Chief Brexit Negotiator Michel Barnier speaks during a plenary session of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) in Brussels, Belgium, January 23, 2019. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

“Preparing for a no-deal scenario is more important now than ever, even though I still hope that we can avoid this scenario,” Barnier told a gathering of employers and labour organisations in Brussels.

“Today, there are two possible ways to leave the EU: number one, an orderly withdrawal based on the agreement that we have built step by step with the UK over the last 18 months.”

“Number two, a disorderly withdrawal, leaving the EU without a deal, is a default scenario and there appears to be a majority in the House of Commons to oppose a no-deal.”

He spoke in English, rather than his native French — something he tends to do when he wants policymakers in Britain to take particular note of his remarks.

“But opposing no-deal will not stop no-deal from happening at the end of March. To stop no-deal, another majority will have to emerge.”

“This is the objective of the political consultations that Theresa May has started and we hope, sincerely, we hope that this process will be sucessful,” he said.

Barnier also said the EU was ready to start negotiations on its new relationship with the UK the very moment the withdrawal agreement was ratified.

He stressed no-deal was not the EU’s preferred scenario.

“We remain calm, determined, open, respecting the parliamentary debate in the UK,” Barnier said as, in the House of Commons, an attempt by some British lawmakers to prevent the no-deal scenario by delaying Brexit was gaining momentum.

Reporting by Alastair Macdonald, Gabriela Baczynska, Jan Strupczewski, Editing by William Maclean

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