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EU ready to discuss new Brexit deal if UK changes ‘red lines’

European Union's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier delivers a speech during a debate on BREXIT after the vote on british Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal, at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, January 16, 2019. Left is European Commission first Vice-President Frans Timmermans. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

By Peter Maushagen

The European Union told Britain it could have a different kind of Brexit deal after its parliament overwhelmingly rejected the one negotiated by Prime Minister Theresa May — but only if London changes its key demands.

Addressing the European Parliament on Wednesday, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier defended the agreement struck with May that was crushed the previous evening by an alliance of British lawmakers on opposing sides of the Brexit divide and warned that the risk of a disorderly withdrawal was now greater than ever.

The EU executive would step up its preparations, he said, for a disorderly exit that would disrupt the whole of Europe.

Barnier indicated that one way forward would be for Britain to accept even closer alignment with EU regulations to secure a very close trading relationship in future — EU officials say London could, for example, abandon its determination to leave the EU customs union and centrally regulated single market.

Referring to statements by the European Parliament and all the other member states, Barnier said: “If the United Kingdom chooses to let its red lines change in future, and that it takes this choice for its advantage of the ambition of going beyond a simple but not negligible free trade accord, then the European Union would be ready immediately to … respond favourably.”


WHO SAID WHAT

DUTCH PRIME MINISTER RUTTE UP TO THE BRITISH TO DECIDE ON POSSIBLE DELAY OF BREXIT

FARAGE SAYS UK WOULD VOTE BY BIGGER MAJORITY FOR BREXIT IN A SECOND REFERENDUM

UK’S LEADSOM SAYS WE ARE CLEAR THAT WE WILL NOT DELAY ARTICLE 50

EU’S VERHOFSTADT SAYS BRITAIN MUST REDEFINE ITS RED LINES ON BREXIT

MP BAKER SAYS WE ARE WILLING TO GO TO WTO TERMS FOR BREXIT BUT WE WANT A FREE TRADE AGREEMENT

EU’S BARNIER SAYS ORDERLY BREXIT REMAINS ABSOLUTE PRIORITY IN COMING WEEKS

ARTICLE 50 EXTENSION NOT INEVITABLE, NOT NECESSARY IN MY VIEW – DUP’S DODDS

FRENCH EUROPEAN AFFAIRS MINISTER LOISEAU SAYS SHE DOES NOT KNOW IF PM MAY HAS A “PLAN B” ON BREXIT

LABOUR FINANCE SPOKESMAN JOHN MCDONNELL SAYS THINKS THERE COULD BE A BREXIT DEAL BASED ON WHAT LABOUR IS PROPOSING

GERMAN ECONOMY MINISTER SAYS EU IS UNITED ON QUESTION OF DRAFT BREXIT DEAL

GOLDMAN SACHS: PROSPECT OF DISORDERLY ‘NO DEAL’ BREXIT HAS FADED FURTHER

GERMAN ECONOMY MINISTER SAYS WE SHOULD GIVE BRITONS OPPORTUNITY TO CLARIFY THEIR POSITION

SCOTTISH FIRST MINISTER SAYS IT’S TIME TO PUT BREXIT BACK TO THE PEOPLE IN ANOTHER REFERENDUM

GERMAN ECONOMY MINISTER SAYS NO ONE IN BRUSSELS OR LONDON WANTS CHAOS

EXTENSION OF ART. 50, IF REQUESTED BY BRITAIN, IS NOT A SOLUTION BY ITSELF, UK NEEDS TO COME WITH A PLAN – ELYSEE SOURCE

FRANCE’S ‘MEDEF’ BUSINESS LOBBY GROUP: FRENCH COMPANIES MUST TAKE STEPS TO PREPARE FOR WORST-CASE/NO DEAL BREXIT SCENARIO


That suggestion for a “deeper relationship” was echoed by the EU legislature’s Brexit coordinator, Guy Verhofstadt.

But Barnier and others lined up to highlight how the vote in London exposed only divisions, without shedding light on what Britain’s could actually rally behind as a consensual position, just 10 weeks before the country is set to leave the bloc, potentially into a legal limbo for citizens and businesses.

“Please, please, please tell us finally what you want to achieve,” pleaded Manfred Weber, the centre-right leader in the chamber and an ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

But, he added, there was “no room for manoeuvre” in terms of renegotiating the current accord, which Brexit campaigners say leaves Britain too tied to EU rules, especially due to a “backstop” insurance clause intended to avoid throwing up a hard customs border across the divided island of Ireland.

Barnier insisted there could be no weakening on that issue.

“Right now it’s too early to assess all the consequences of this vote,” he told a Strasbourg chamber that was sparsely attended for the early morning debate — a fact that reflects a growing weariness in Europe with Britain’s troubles.

“We have respected and we continue to respect the democratic parliamentary debate in the UK and I will not speculate on the different scenarios. What yesterday’s vote showed is that the political conditions for the ratification of the withdrawal agreement are not yet there in London.”

Some EU lawmakers have called for Britain to put the question of remaining in the EU to a second referendum. The chair of EU summits, Donald Tusk, suggested on Tuesday that division in Britain could lead to Brexit being cancelled.

Frans Timmermans, the deputy head of the European Commission, citing a phrase often attributed to British fantasy novelist C.S. Lewis, suggested Britain should put its past tribulations behind it and seek a fresh start with the EU:

“You can’t go back and change the beginning,” the former Dutch foreign minister said, “But you can start where you are and change the ending.”

But Nigel Farage, the former leader of the UK Independence Party which drove the campaign for the 2016 vote to leave, told fellow members of the European Parliament that any second ballot would deliver an even greater majority for quitting because Britons had been angered by the EU’s stance in negotiations.

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