European Union prepping for no-deal Brexit
EU leaders express doubts about May's ability to live up to her end of the bargain; reject attempt to re-negotiate deal
European Union leaders expressed deep doubts on Friday about whether British Prime Minister Theresa May can live up to her side of their Brexit agreement and they vowed to step up preparations for a potentially-catastrophic "no-deal" scenario.
May cancelled a Brexit vote in the UK Parliament this week after it became clear the assembly would reject the deal she concluded with the EU last month. She travelled to Brussels in hope of wringing some concessions from her European partners that would help assuage doubts about the draft divorce agreement back in London.
But EU leaders rejected any attempt to re-negotiate their agreement, a 585-page legal text settling things like the divorce bill and the rights next year of Europeans living in Britain or Britons living in the EU, plus a document laying out their hopes for future relations, which isn't legally binding. They did publish a short text with "assurances" about how the deal would work.
"Very objectively, the signals that we heard yesterday are not especially reassuring about the capacity in Britain to be able to honour the engagement that was undertaken," said Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel.
Expressing a "gigantic doubt" that May can get the deal through Parliament, Michel said: "we are going to be sure to prepare for all hypotheses, including the hypothesis of a no-deal." No country has ever left the 28-nation EU 'the world's biggest trading bloc' and the rules laying out that process are sketchy. Essentially, Brexit is being made up as the process advances. Court challenges have clarified some of the rules. One thing is clear: Brexit will happen on March 29, although a transition period will help ease Britain out over almost two, and possibly up to four, years.
Blair pitches for new Brexit vote
Former British prime minister Tony Blair made a strong pitch on Friday for a fresh Brexit referendum to break the current deadlock over a controversial Withdrawal Agreement with EU.
"Europe should prepare for the possibility, now morphing into the near probability, that Britain will require an extension of time to the Article 50 process, either to negotiate further or more likely to conduct a new referendum," said Blair.
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