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18 July 2019

BBC: Michel Barnier says UK 'will have to face consequences' in event of no deal

The UK will have to "face the consequences" if it opts to leave without a deal, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator has said.

Michel Barnier told BBC Panorama the thrice-rejected agreement negotiated by Theresa May was the "only way to leave the EU in an orderly manner".

He also insisted Mrs May and her ministers "never" told him during Brexit talks she might opt for no deal.

Publicly, Mrs May has always insisted no deal is better than a bad deal.

In his first UK broadcast interview - conducted in May before the start of the Conservative leadership contest - Mr Barnier was asked what would happen if the UK "just tore up the membership card" for the EU.

"The UK will have to face the consequences," he replied.

Asked whether the UK had ever genuinely threatened to leave in such a way with no deal, he said: "I think that the UK side, which is well informed and competent and knows the way we work on the EU side, knew from the very beginning that we've never been impressed by such a threat.

"It's not useful to use it."

Conservative Party leadership contender Jeremy Hunt told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the fact the EU "never believed that no deal was a credible threat" was "one of our mistakes in the last two years".

He said while there will be economic consequences to no deal, "we are much better prepared for no deal than we were before".

He said the issue of the Northern Ireland border could be solved with "existing technology" and the controversial Irish backstop, which aims to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland, "isn't going to happen". [...]

Elsewhere in the programme, Mrs May's de facto deputy David Lidington revealed that a senior EU official made a secret offer to the UK to put Brexit on hold for five years and negotiate a "new deal for Europe".

Mr Lidington said the offer was passed on in 2018 by Martin Selmayr, a senior aide to EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. [...]

In another interview for the programme, the EU Commission's First Vice-President, Frans Timmermans, said UK ministers were "running around like idiots" when they arrived to negotiate Brexit in 2017.

Mr Timmermans said while he expected a "Harry Potter-like book of tricks" from ministers, instead they were like Lance Corporal Jones from Dad's Army.

In an interview in March 2019 with the BBC's Nick Robinson, Mr Timmermans said he found it "shocking" how unprepared the UK team was when it began negotiations.

"We thought they are so brilliant," he said. "That in some vault somewhere in Westminster there will be a Harry Potter-like book with all the tricks and all the things in it to do."

But after seeing the then-Brexit Secretary David Davis - who resigned over his disagreements with the deal - speaking in public, his mind changed.

"I saw him not coming, not negotiating, grandstanding elsewhere [and] I thought, 'Oh my God, they haven't got a plan, they haven't got a plan.'

"That was really shocking, frankly, because the damage if you don't have a plan...

"Time's running out and you don't have a plan. It's like Lance Corporal Jones, you know, 'Don't panic, don't panic!' Running around like idiots." [...]

Full article on BBC

Related article on The Guardian: Boris Johnson's no-deal Brexit threat risks being ignored by the EU

© BBC - British Broadcasting Corporation

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