EU Official Says 'No-Deal' Vote Won't Halt Brexit
STRASBOURG, France — The Latest on Brexit (all times local):
The European Commission is warning Britain’s Parliament that voting against Brexit happening without a withdrawal deal in place isn’t enough and lawmakers must approve the deal, too.
An official from the EU’s executive branch noted Wednesday that the bloc already reached a divorce deal with Prime Minister Theresa May and the House of Commons rejected it – twice.
The official asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the unresolved situation.
Parliament voted Wednesday night to reject leaving the EU as scheduled on March 29 if it hasn’t approved an agreement.
The EU official said: “There are only two ways to leave the EU: with or without a deal. The EU is prepared for both. To take no deal off the table, it is not enough to vote against no deal – you have to agree to a deal.”
—By Raf Casert.
British Prime Minister Theresa May says Parliament will vote Thursday on whether to seek a delay to Britain’s March 29 departure from the European Union.
May said lawmakers are at the point where they must approve a withdrawal agreement in coming days and request a short postponement to Brexit day or request a “much longer” extension from the EU to negotiate a new arrangement.
The prime minister warned that a long extension would mean Britain would have to take part in European Parliament elections in late May.
She says this is not her preferred outcome and urged Parliament to “face up” to the consequences of the decisions it has made.
Britain’s Parliament has voted to reject having the country leave the European Union without a divorce agreement, a decision that lessens but does not remove the chance of a chaotic “no-deal” Brexit.
The vote Wednesday night also increases the chances that Britain’s exit from the bloc will be delayed.
British lawmakers voted 312 to 308 for a motion that “rejects the United Kingdom leaving the European Union without a Withdrawal Agreement and a Framework for the Future relationship.”
The vote has political but not legal force. A no-deal Brexit could still happen unless Britain and the EU ratify a divorce agreement or Britain decides to cancel its departure.
British lawmakers now plan to vote Thursday on whether to ask the EU to delay the country’s March 29 departure day.
Dutch authorities have demonstrated a digital system for completing customs forms that ferry terminals in the Netherlands are mandating to try to minimize disruptions following Brexit.
The system, called Portbase, was designed so freight haulers could fill out the forms online before they get to ferry terminals for trips to the U.K.
Managing Director Iwan van der Wolf said the system already is being used for destinations outside the European Union and now will be applied to the short trip between the Netherlands and the U.K.
He said Wednesday the online system “is already proven. It’s in use, works very well and everybody’s happy with it.”
Dutch Overseas Trade Minister Sigrid Kaag says the Netherlands is well prepared for Brexit, but urged foreign transport companies to be ready for changes at Dutch ports.
French President Emmanuel Macron says the British Parliament’s second rejection of Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit agreement with the European Union is “regrettable.”
Macron, who was in Kenya’s capital on Wednesday, said during a news conference that the EU spent months negotiating the deal and now only Britain can steer a course for leaving the bloc since “the solution to the current impasse is in London.”
The French leader said EU negotiators would look at any request from the U.K. to postpone Brexit, which is set for March 29.
But Macron warned that the 27 remaining member countries wouldn’t automatically agree to an extension.
He said the British government has “to explain to us what the point of it is, and in particular whether it adds anything.”
The European Union has adopted contingency measures in case Britain leaves the bloc as scheduled on March 29 without a withdrawal deal in place, and the procedures would bring changes overnight to both sides of the English Channel.
The EU parliament approved the last of 11 such measures on Wednesday. They cover everything from air, port and road traffic to the status of foreign students. Some would require reciprocal measures in Britain.
Catherine Bearder, who represents southeast England in the European Parliament, used airline passengers as an example of the confusion a no-deal Brexit could create.
Bearder said: “If we’re going to leave at midnight, they need to know: ‘Can the planes take off the next day?’ Whether their pilot’s recognition is valid….That all of these things that actually make an airplane fly have to be recognized.”
Belgian EU legislator Tom Vandenkendelaere described the alternate procedures as “the typical measures you would take in a state of emergency, and that are also only taken for a temporary, for a strict period in time with strict conditions as well.”
British expats on Spain’s Costa del Sol are fretting about what Brexit might entail for them, now that the U.K. Parliament has rejected the deal negotiated on their country’s departure from the European Union.
Sitting in the sun outside a cafe in the town of La Cala de Mijas on Wednesday, 66-year-old retiree Kevin Fox said he was worried about his future public health care entitlements in the EU and how much his U.K. old-age pension would be worth.
When he moved to Spain 12 years ago, one pound sterling was worth 1.47 euros, he said. Now, he gets around 1.12 euros for each pound.
“I can’t afford to stay here if they’re not paying for my health care,” Fox says, referring to a possible end of the current reciprocal care system between the U.K. and other EU countries.
Mick Robinson, an apartment owner in Spain for the past 13 years, says the current situation is “very worrying.”
He says after the deal’s defeat Tuesday, “It’s even worse. We don’t know what’s going to happen.”
The Spanish government says some 300,000 Britons are legally resident in Spain.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz says any delay to Britain’s departure from the European Union should be as short as possible, though he isn’t specifying any date.
The Austria Press Agency reported that Kurz said he doesn’t expect British lawmakers to vote Wednesday to leave without a deal March 29. He added that “if they do that, then there’s no way to help them,” but the damage to Britain would be much bigger than to Europe.
If a no-deal Brexit is voted down, British lawmakers will decide Thursday whether to request a delay to Brexit. Kurz wouldn’t specify the length of any extension but said that “the shorter the phase by which we extend, the better.” He said that, ideally, it would be a question of weeks and not months.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel isn’t saying how long she thinks a possible delay to Brexit should be, arguing that it’s up to the British Parliament first to provide direction on what happens next.
U.K. lawmakers are to vote Wednesday on whether Britain should leave the European Union March 29 with no deal. If it rejects that idea, it will vote Thursday on whether to delay its departure.
Merkel stressed Wednesday that “it is in our mutual interest that we achieve an orderly departure,” though “the options have of course become fewer” after British lawmakers rejected the painstakingly negotiated EU divorce deal.
But she wouldn’t be drawn on details of the next move. She said: “I will only say be able to say exactly what will happen next when I have seen the next two days with the British votes, which will perhaps give us a bit of direction on what direction we can think in.”
The European Parliament’s chief Brexit official says he wants to limit any Brexit deadline extension to a few months at best, fearing it will take over the whole European election campaign.
Guy Verhofstadt warned that the May 23-26 polls across the 27 remaining EU nations “will be hijacked by the Brexiteers and the whole Brexit issue” if the extension spills over past those days.
“We will talk only about that,” he said.
The EU Commission has warned that if Britain were still a member at the time of the elections, it would be forced to organize polls to fill its seats in the European legislature.
Verhofstadt said that “the only thing we will do is give a new mandate to Mr. (Nigel) Farage,” the UK lawmaker who has long campaigned in the European Parliament for Britain to leave.
Farage said that “I don’t want me coming back here” and called for the EU to reject an extension and make sure the U.K. leaves on time.
The British prime minister who set the Brexit process in motion is warning that leaving the European Union without a deal would be disastrous for the U.K.
David Cameron told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he fully supports Prime Minister Theresa May’s attempts to maintain a “close partnership” with Europe after Britain leaves the EU.
He says Parliament should vote to “rule out no-deal” and seek an extension to the March 29 deadline for Britain’s departure.
Cameron resigned after failing to convince British voters to stay in the EU in the 2016 referendum. He called the referendum to settle an internal Conservative Party dispute but ended up losing his office.
He advises the prime minister to seek “partnership deals” within Parliament that might lead to a solution of the Brexit impasse.
Germany’s economy minister says a decisive rejection of a no-deal Brexit by British lawmakers could be a “turning point” and create hope for millions.
The British Parliament will vote Wednesday on whether to leave the European Union without a deal March 29 after lawmakers on Tuesday voted down Prime Minister Theresa May’s EU divorce agreement.
German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier tweeted: “After divisive debates & votes, today can become a turning point: Rejecting No-deal-Brexit by a large cross-party majority will unite millions in the U.K. & in Europe. Will create hope & solidarity.”
He added: “Whatever you finally decide. Good luck dear friends!”
If a no-deal Brexit is rejected, lawmakers are due to vote Thursday on whether to delay Brexit.
Britain’s government says it won’t impose new checks and controls on goods at the Northern Ireland-Republic of Ireland border if the U.K. leaves the European Union without an agreement on future relations.
The policy is part of temporary tariff regime unveiled Wednesday to inform lawmakers who will vote later on whether to eliminate the possibility of a no-deal exit from the EU. The regime will last for up to 12 months.
As part of the plan, the government says there would be no tariffs on 87 percent of imports by value, a “modest liberalization” compared with current trade rules.
A mixture of tariffs and quotas will apply to beef, lamb, pork, poultry and some dairy “to support farmers and producers who have historically been protected through high EU tariffs.”
The European Parliament’s chief Brexit official has questioned whether a short extension of the March 29 Brexit deadline can be given if Britain doesn’t emerge from its political chaos on the issue.
Guy Verhofstadt said that in the wake of the U.K. parliament’s rejection of the Brexit deal, the European legislature had no reason to act on pushing back the deadline to avoid a chaotic British exit from the bloc.
Verhofstadt said that “I don’t see reason to give any extension if first of all we don’t know what the majority position is of the House of Commons.”
He said that “we are waiting now for a proposal coming from London. It is now in London that they have to find a way out of this and break the deadlock.”
The European Union’s economic commissioner says the British parliament has squandered its last chance to secure a deal smoothing the way for Brexit.
Pierre Moscovici has told France-2 television that the EU has “done everything we could do” to reassure British lawmakers, who rejected British Prime Minister Theresa May’s EU divorce deal for a second time Tuesday.
Moscovici said “the train has passed two times” and the EU will not renegotiate the deal before the scheduled Brexit date of March 29.
He left the door open to an eventual delay if the British request it, but only if there’s a clear justification. He said the British have already said what they don’t want, and now “it’s up to the British to say what they want.”
Moscovici said Tuesday’s vote increases chances of a British departure that is “disorderly, brutal, like a cliff,” including sudden new customs rules and trade chaos.
Germany’s foreign minister says the U.K. Parliament’s rejection of the Brexit deal negotiated on Britain’s departure from the European Union was “reckless.”
Heiko Maas says the EU made “far-reaching additional offers and assurances” at Britain’s request this week.
In remarks released late Tuesday, Maas said the U.K. Parliament’s decision to reject the deal “brings a no-deal scenario ever closer.”
He added that “whoever rejects the agreement plays with the welfare of their citizens and the economy in a reckless way.”
Maas said Germany is prepared “as best as possible for this worst possible case,” though Germany hopes a disorderly Brexit can still be avoided in the coming 17 days.
The European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator says Britain must finally get its act together as a chaotic no-deal departure from the bloc is little more than two weeks away.
Michel Barnier said Wednesday it was time for Westminster to change tack, after the U.K. parliament handed Prime Minister Theresa May another huge defeat on her freshly renegotiated Brexit deal.
Barnier said that “again the House of Commons says what it does not want. Now this impasse can only be solved in the U.K.”
The EU parliament’s Brexit group was meeting to assess the situation in Strasbourg, France before a plenary debate on the impasse.
British lawmakers rejected May’s Brexit deal in a 391-242 vote on Tuesday night. Parliament will vote Wednesday on whether to leave the EU without a deal.