A no-deal Brexit is now more likely but can still be avoided, Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator has said.
He stated that a long extension to the UK’s current 12 April exit date carried “significant risks for the EU” and that a “strong justification would be needed” before the EU would agree.
BBC deputy political editor John Pienaar said the cabinet was “irreconcilably split” and “almost any outcome is inconceivable”, with one camp preferring no deal, the other a “soft Brexit.”
In the Commons votes, MPs rejected a customs union with the EU by three votes. A motion for another referendum got the most votes in favour.
Tory MP – Nick Boles, who was behind one of the proposals, resigned in frustration.
Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay told MPs that if they wanted to secure a further delay from the EU, the government must be able to put forward a “credible proposition”.
One suggestion has been the possibility of a general election – but former foreign secretary Boris Johnson told BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg that would be likely to “infuriate” voters. Type in 2 or more characters for results.
Mr Barnier said: “No deal was never our desire or intended scenario, but the EU 27 is now prepared. It becomes day after day more likely.”
Mr Barnier told the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee that “things are somewhat hanging on the decisions of the House of Commons” on the deal negotiated with the UK “not against the UK”.
“If we are to avoid a no-deal Brexit, there is only one way forward – they have got to vote on a deal,” he said.
Former Brexit Secretary David Davis told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the way forward was to address the controversial Irish backstop – a measure to avoid the return of a hard border on the island of Ireland.
He said the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and colleagues for whom unionism is “very, very important” and “transcends everything else” will not move “unless there is some movement on the protection of Northern Ireland”.
He said the most “constructive outcome” would be the Malthouse Compromise – which includes extending the transition period for a year until the end of 2021 and protecting EU citizens’ rights, instead of using the backstop.
But the Leader of the Commons Andrea Leadsom said the prime minister’s deal was the best option.
“The compromise option, the one that delivers on the EU referendum but at the same time enables us to accommodate the wishes of those who wanted to remain in the EU – that is the best compromise,” she said.
“That’s why all those other alternatives are being rejected so what we do need to do is to make some progress in getting a deal through.”
Labour MP and chairman of the Brexit select committee Hilary Benn told Today that a confirmatory referendum was the best solution.
“A good leader would be taking that decision and put it back to the people,” he said.
“[The] fear is that the PM is not going to move an inch. That is why we are at a moment of crisis.”
Mrs May’s plan for the UK’s departure has been rejected by MPs three times.
Last week, Parliament took control of the process away from the government in
order to hold a series of votes designed to find an alternative way forward and, at
the moment, a decision has still to be reached.
Read more at: bbc.co.uk