General Affairs Council (Article 50)
Press statement by Michel Barnier.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Last week, the House of Commons voted against the Withdrawal Agreement and against a “no-deal” scenario.
But voting against “no deal” does not prevent it from happening.
Everyone should now finalise all preparations for a “no deal” scenario.
On the EU side, we are prepared. The European Parliament and the Council have now approved nearly all the foreseen contingency measures, and are working on the two last measures that still need to be adopted, namely on short-term visas and the EU budget for 2019.
The House of Commons also voted in favour of an extension of the Article 50 period.
If Prime Minister May requests such an extension before the European Council on Thursday, it will be for the 27 Leaders to assess the reason and the usefulness for an extension.
EU Leaders will need a concrete plan from the UK in order to be able to make an informed decision.
And key questions will be:
- Does an extension increase the chances for the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement?
- Will the UK request an extension because it wants a bit more time to rework the Political Declaration?
Ladies and gentlemen, I recall that this Political Declaration, which sets out the framework for our future relation, could be made more ambitious in the coming days if a majority in the House of Commons so wishes.
If not, what would be the purpose and the outcome of an extension?
And how can we ensure that, at the end of a possible extension, we are not back in the same situation as today?
In any case, the European Council will need to assess what is in the best interest of the EU.
Extending the uncertainty without a clear plan would add to the economic cost for our businesses but could also incur a political cost for the EU.
It is for the British Government and Parliament to decide very quickly what the UK wants to do next.
Thank you for your attention.
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