Brussels (AFP) – Britain will be solely to blame if it crashes out of the EU in a chaotic “no-deal” Brexit, the bloc told Prime Minister Boris Johnson Tuesday in the latest clash between Brussels and London.
With the clock ticking and Johnson adamant the EU must accept significant changes to the existing withdrawal agreement, fears are growing that Britain could leave without a deal, causing major economic turmoil.
Days after Johnson and EU Council President Donald Tusk traded jibes over who would be responsible if Britain leaves the bloc on October 31 without an agreement, European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker waded into the row.
EU countries have challenged Johnson to come up with workable alternatives to the “Irish backstop” arrangements that he insists must be changed and Juncker used a phone call with the British leader to insist the bloc would not be to blame if things fall apart.
“He recalled that while the EU is fully prepared for a ‘no-deal’ scenario, it will do everything it can to avoid such a situation,” the commission said in a statement outlining the call.
“A ‘no-deal’ scenario will only ever be the UK’s decision, not the EU’s.”
Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage on Tuesday urged Johnson to abandon the existing withdrawal agreement struck by previous premier Theresa May and quit the bloc without a deal.
Johnson is adamant the withdrawal agreement struck by May — rejected by his lawmakers three times — is dead in the water and changes must be made, particularly on arrangements for the border between EU member Ireland and British-ruled Northern Ireland.
After talks in Paris and Berlin last week and at the G7 at the weekend, Johnson said the chances of reaching a deal with the EU that he can approve were “marginally” higher.
Juncker’s office said he had “repeated his willingness to work constructively with Prime Minister Johnson and to look at any concrete proposals he may have, as long as they are compatible with the withdrawal agreement”.
“President Juncker underlined that the EU27’s support for Ireland is steadfast and that the EU will continue to be very attentive to Ireland’s interests,” the statement said.