Jean-Claude Juncker warns 'time is almost up' to avoid no-deal Brexit

Posted On: 
15th January 2019

Britain is now more likely to leave the European Union without a deal after MPs “regrettably” rejected Theresa May’s Brexit agreement, EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker has warned.

Jean-Claude Juncker
Credit: 
PA Images

The Prime Minister suffered a record-breaking defeat in the Commons, as MPs voted down her deal by 432 votes to 202.

The humiliating loss comes after two years of intense negotiations between Mrs May’s team and her European counterparts, and Mr Juncker warned that “time is almost up” for both sides to reach an agreement before Brexit day on 29 March.

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"I take note with regret of the outcome of the vote in the House of Commons this evening,” the European Commission president said.

“The withdrawal agreement is a fair compromise and the best possible deal. It reduces the damage caused by Brexit for citizens and businesses across Europe. It is the only way to ensure an orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union.

"The European Commission, and notably our chief negotiator Michel Barnier, has invested enormous time and effort to negotiate the withdrawal agreement. We have shown creativity and flexibility throughout.

“I, together with (EU Council President Donald) Tusk, have demonstrated goodwill again by offering additional clarifications and reassurances in an exchange of letters with Prime Minister May earlier this week. 

"The risk of a disorderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom has increased with this evening's vote.

“While we do not want this to happen, the European Commission will continue its contingency work to help ensure the EU is fully prepared.

“I urge the United Kingdom to clarify its intentions as soon as possible. Time is almost up".

Meanwhile Donald Tusk suggested that as it stood a deal was "impossible" as he called for a "positive solution" to be brought forward.

Speaking in the immediate aftermath of the defeat, Mrs May said ministers would "listen" to the result, which saw 118 Tory MPs defy the party whip to vote against her.

"It is clear that the House does not support this deal," she said.

"But tonight’s vote tells us nothing about what it does support. Nothing about how - or even if - it intends to honour the decision the British people took in a referendum Parliament decided to hold."

MELTDOWN

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said the defeat sparked the “beginning of the end of Brexit” as he called for a second EU referendum. 

“Labour have finally lodged a no confidence motion, after weeks of failing to do so. I have signed it and the Liberal Democrats will vote against a Conservative Government which is now in meltdown.

“However, a General Election will not offer a way forward for the country so long as Jeremy Corbyn continues to procrastinate, backing Brexit while pretending not to.

“And while the Conservatives are more divided than ever, they are likely to unite with their friends in the DUP if only to keep themselves in office.

“Jeremy Corbyn must listen to Labour members and MPs, and back a People’s Vote on the Government’s plan versus staying in the European Union.”

The call was echoed by Labour MP and Best for Britain campaigner Ian Murray, who said: "This is a historic and humiliating defeat for the Prime Minister and her government is now in total disarray.

“Parliament has rejected her deal and in parliamentary terms it is dead. We also know that Parliament will not countenance a catastrophic no-deal Brexit.