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article imageEU's Barnier: Risk of 'no deal' has never been so high

By AFP     Jan 16, 2019 in World

EU negotiator Michel Barnier warned Wednesday that the British parliament's overwhelming rejection of a negotiated Brexit deal increases the risk that Britain will crash out of the European Union without an agreement.

"We are 10 weeks from the 31st of March and at 10 weeks the risk of a no deal has never seemed so high," Barnier told a session of the European Parliament in the eastern French city of Strasbourg.

"What yesterday's vote shows is that the political conditions for ratification are not yet there in London," Barnier told MEPs just hours after the historic vote at UK parliament.

British Prime Minister Theresa May suffered a humiliating rejection of her hard-fought deal, with MPs inflicting the biggest government defeat in modern history, spurning the accord by 432 votes to 202.

The result throws the way ahead on Brexit into deep uncertainty, with British lawmakers unable to agree on a plan and the risk of a chaotic "no deal" exit on March 29 looming.

Barnier, who led the EU negotiating team during two years of painstaking talks, said he respected but "profoundly regretted" the verdict of the House of Commons.

"Right now it's too early to assess all the consequences of this vote," he told MEPs, adding that those opposed to the deal had "very different, very diverse, sometimes opposed or even contradictory motivations.

"In this context it is for the British authorities to bring an assessment of this vote today or tomorrow and for the British government to say how it wants to proceed towards an orderly withdrawal on March 29."

European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans summarised the situation by quoting the British writer C.S. Lewis, saying: "You can't go back and change the beginning. But you can start where you are and change the ending."

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