Michel Barnier warns no-deal Brexit 'more likely' as Theresa May holds marathon Cabinet

Posted On: 
2nd April 2019

Brussels chief Michel Barnier has warned a no-deal Brexit is now “more likely,” as Theresa May gears up for a marathon Cabinet meeting aimed at breaking the political deadlock.

Chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier
Credit: 
PA Images

The EU chief Brexit negotiator said the options to prevent Britain quitting the bloc without an agreement in place were running out - but insisted a no-deal departure was still avoidable.

It comes amid reports that Chancellor Philip Hammond will tell the Prime Minister she must compromise on her Brexit red lines or call a second EU referendum.

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Last night the Commons again rejected a series of Brexit options put forward by MPs in a last-ditch bid to find a compromise plan.

With just over a week before the Government has to present its next moves to the EU and apply for a long delay to avoid a no-deal Brexit, it leaves the country in continued limbo.

Mr Barnier said a long delay to Brexit posed “significant risks for the EU” and insisted a “strong justification would be needed” before the EU would grant one.

“No deal was never our desire or intended scenario but the EU 27 is now prepared,” he said in a speech at the European Policy Centre this morning. “It becomes day after day more likely.”

He said the three possible justifications for a long extension were a fresh  EU referendum, a snap general election or the Commons needing more time to agree a compromise future trade plan.

He made the Comments ahead of a five-hour Cabinet meeting today, at which Theresa May and her top team hope to thrash out a solution to the impasse at Westminster.

According to reports, Mrs May could suggest bringing her Brexit deal back to the Commons for a fourth time with a confidence motion in the Government attached as a strong-arm tool to get MPs to back it.

It comes after pro-Brexit Tory MP Steve Baker said he could vote against the Government in a confidence motion, while colleague David Davis said up to 20 could do so.

'PUT IT BACK TO THE PEOPLE'

Meanwhile, the Times reports that Mr Hammond will urge ministers to come up with their own compromise proposal - possibly attaching a customs union to the Withdrawal Agreement.

He will argue that the only other option will be to admit Parliament had failed and for the Government to “put it back to the people in a referendum” to avoid a damaging general election.

A proposal to keep the UK in a permanent customs union was rejected by just three votes in the Commons last night.