The head of the EU negotiating team Michel Barnier has confirmed to BBC Today that neither outgoing British Prime Minister Theresa May nor her ministers ever warned him directly about going for a no-deal Brexit.
"No, no, I’ve never listened to such a sentence. Never”, Barnier replied to the show’s host, who asked him about a “no-deal” warning.
The European politician also noted that the no-deal scenario has never scared the EU, noting that they are prepared for no deal but shrugged off any blame for the worst-case outcome, insisting that he and his team had "worked for the last two years for a deal”.
"We’ve never been impressed by such a comment or threat, we are prepared for a no-deal Brexit. We are prepared for no deal, it could only happen by accident, by default”, Barnier said.
At the same time, he praised the agreement the EU forged with Theresa May’s government, describing it as “the only way to leave the EU in an orderly way”.
“We have put in the document with the UK – not against the UK, with the UK – the legal answers to each and every point of uncertainty created by Brexit”, the diplomat said.
He also seized an opportunity to lambast Brexit supporters and the EU-UK divorce, branding it a “lose-lose game” and warning that “everyone will have to pay a price”.
“Nobody until now has been able to give me the single proof of added value of Brexit, not even Mr Farage. There is no added value; Brexit is a negative negotiation for everybody. There is no easy solution but we need solutions, operational solutions, not only speeches. What creates the problem in Ireland is Brexit, only Brexit. Nothing else”, Barnier noted, adding that it “put at risk the real progress in Ireland”.
The UK Conservative Party is reportedly expected to announce the name of its new leader on 23 July after its members vote to choose between Boris Johnson and current Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt. The winner will automatically become UK prime minister and will be tasked with delivering Brexit by the 31 October deadline.
The EU and the UK had to agree on the Halloween deadline after UK lawmakers did not endorse a Brexit deal agreed upon by London and Brussels by spring. The country was initially set to withdraw in March after UK citizens had voted to leave the European Union in 2016.