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‘No deal would be a catastrophe' EU heavyweight fires warning shot to Britain over Brexit
BRITAIN has been warned by one of the EU’s top former officials that it faces a “catastrophe” if it fails to secure a transitional deal and crashes out of the bloc in 2019. And he said Britain has no choice but to accept a significant transitional deal on more or less its current membership terms, rather than trying to negotiate a bespoke bridging period. Mr Van Rompuy made the remarks in a wide-ranging interview with Euractiv, in which he also said that Jean-Claude Juncker’s dream of an EU super president was already dead in the water. Speaking about Theresa May’s upcoming speech in Florence, in which the PM is widely expected to make Europe an offer on money, the former eurocrat said he was “surprised it took so long”. He said: “In the Brexit negotiations, for sure after the elections, there is a growing awareness that a unilateral withdrawal is a catastrophe, in the first place for the UK. It will create problems for the 27 but is a catastrophe for the UK.“And secondly, even if we started negotiations on a free trade agreement in October – which will not happen, but let’s assume that we start in October – you will not have finished by the end of 2018.” Mr Van Rompuy said any future free trade agreement between the UK and EU would “take years” to negotiate. The bloc’s deal with Canada was only recently ratified having been a decade in the making.
And he ruled out a bespoke transitional arrangement with significant exemptions on key issues like free movement and ECJ jurisdiction, as sought by the UK Government, saying securing one would be “as difficult as negotiating a free trade agreement”.He said: “I think there is now an understanding that it is absolutely needed but there is growing awareness that there is only one possibility, and that is that is that you have to stay in the single market and the customs union because you will have no time to negotiate a special deal on a transition.“So I will not say you take it or leave it, but when you say that you need a transition there are not 20 possibilities: in my view, there is only one. “You can negotiate some modalities on sensitive issues but all in all it will be extremely close to the membership of the single market and of the customs union.” Mr Van Rompuy made the remarks as Mrs May prepares to travel to the Italian city of Florence for a make-or-break speech which will either unblock the Brexit talks or sink them further into the mire. Britain and Brussels have been at loggerheads in particular over the thorny issue of a financial settlement, and the PM is expected to make an opening offer of £18 billion to cover the UK’s budget commitments to 2020. Brussels will be reassured by a concrete commitment on Britain’s part to honour its spending pledges - something seen as long overdue by eurocrats - although they will try to significantly negotiate up the final figure. On top of it Mrs May could be set to offer the bloc three years of transitional payments, at around £10 billion a year, in return for access to the Single Market whilst a longer-term trade deal is agreed. . 00FastNews. Please Subscribe!
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