EU demands a ‘clear answer’ from parliament on what it wants to do next
The European Union says it is the “responsibility of the UK” to decide what will happen next, with leaders pleading for a “clear answer”.
The Commons is now set to vote on whether to accept a no-deal Brexit after May suffered a humiliating defeat on her Brexit plan - but it still does not offer a way forward.
The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier again insisted there will be no further offer from Brussels apart from the deal already on the table, and he called for a “clear answer” to what the UK wants.
He told the European Parliament: “What will their choice be, what will be the line they will take? That is the question we need a clear answer to now. That is the question that has to be answered before a decision on a possible further extension.
“Why would we extend these discussions? The discussion on Article 50 is done and dusted. We have the Withdrawal Agreement. It is there.
“That is the question asked and we are waiting for an answer to that.”
Barnier added: “The risk of no-deal has never been higher. That is the risk of an exit - even by accident - by the UK from the EU in a disorderly fashion.”
In order to avoid a walkout by cabinet ministers who oppose a no-deal Brexit, May has given Tories a free vote on her no-deal motion.
They will vote on a motion stating: “This House declines to approve leaving the European Union without a Withdrawal Agreement and a framework on the future relationship on March 29.”
If MPs reject no-deal - as most Westminster observers expect - a third vote will follow on Thursday on whether to authorise May to request an extension of the two-year Article 50 negotiation process.
Members of the Malthouse Compromise group of Tories from both Leave and Remain wings immediately tabled an amendment proposing a “standstill” agreement lasting as late as the end of 2021, during which the UK would observe EU rules and pay into Brussels budgets while a full trade deal is negotiated.
Barnier has already insisted there could not be a “transition” period without a full Withdrawal Agreement.
Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson said he still expects Brussels to come up with a new deal, telling LBC Radio: “The horses always change places in the final furlong, it’s always at five minutes to midnight that the real deal is done.”
He claimed it is “absurd” for May to grant a free vote on no-deal, because it is a “fundamental” part of the Brexit negotiating strategy.