‘Time is almost up,’ Europe warns the UK

The European Commission has said that the risk of a disorderly UK exit from the EU has increased as a result of Theresa May’s defeat, warning: “Time is almost up”.

President Jean-Claude Juncker, who cancelled travel plans to be in Brussels to deal with the aftermath of the vote on Wednesday,  voiced regret at the result.

He urged the UK Government to make its intentions clear “as soon as possible” and said the Commission would continue its preparations for a possible no-deal Brexit.

European Council president Donald Tusk appeared to be calling on MPs to come forward with proposals to halt Brexit in a tweet in which he asked: “If a deal is impossible, and no-one wants no deal, then who will finally have the courage to say what the only positive solution is?”

Antonio Tajani, the president of the European Parliament, which was itself due to vote shortly on the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement, said the result was “bad news” and promised to “stand by” EU citizens living in the UK.

And the European Parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt said: “The UK Parliament has said what it doesn’t want. Now is the time to find out what UK parliamentarians want.

“In the meantime, the rights of citizens must be safeguarded.”

Mr Juncker said that the process of ratification would continue on the EU side.

He insisted that the Withdrawal Agreement reached last November was “a fair compromise and the best possible deal” and that Brussels had shown “goodwill” by providing further assurances this week.

Brexit
Theresa May clashed with Jean-Claude Juncker last month over his claim that her Brexit plans were ‘nebulous’ (ec.europa.eu/PA Images)

He warned: “The risk of a disorderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom has increased with this evening’s vote.

“While we do not want this to happen, the European Commission will continue its contingency work to help ensure the EU is fully prepared.

“I urge the United Kingdom to clarify its intentions as soon as possible.

“Time is almost up.”

There were expressions of dismay from capitals across the EU27 as news of the historic vote broke.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who spoke on Tuesday evening with EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, said the ball was now in London’s court.

“In any case, there will be no renegotiation of the Withdrawal Agreement,” said Mr Kurz. “Our goal remains to avoid Hard Brexit and to work as closely as possible with UK in the future.”

Spain’s Pedro Sanchez  warned: “The Agreement is the best possible and a disorderly exit would be negative for the EU and catastrophic for the UK.”

Madrid will continue to work on contingency measures for a no-deal withdrawal and will prioritise the rights of its citizens, he said.

Lars Lokke Rasmussen characterised the outcome as “very unfortunate” and said the UK had taken “one step closer to a chaotic no-deal Brexit scenario” and was “running out of time”.

“It is now for the British Government to suggest a way forward,” said the Danish PM.

“Meanwhile we will intensify our no-deal preparations.”

Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki said a no-deal Brexit would be “a bad solution both for Great Britain and the EU itself”, and said Poland would act to provide citizens and businesses with “maximum predictability and security”.

The risk of a disorderly withdrawal of the UK has increased with this evening's vote. While we do not want this to happen, we will continue our contingency work to help ensure EU is fully prepared.

Statement by @JunckerEUhttps://t.co/ExEVxwZRoG#BrexitVote#Brexitpic.twitter.com/KEvXL8GLtC

— European Commission 🇪🇺 (@EU_Commission) January 15, 2019

Luxembourg’s Xavier Bettel said: “I deeply regret the outcome of the vote, as I regret Brexit as such.

“Now we need a fast and clear plan on how to proceed.

“Because that’s what we need to do, finding solutions, not problems.

“Our internal preparations to limit the damage in case of a no-deal shall go ahead in full steam.”

Finland’s Jula Sipila said the result was “unfortunate but not a surprise”, while Juri Ratas of Estonia said it was “regrettable” and Slovakia’s Peter Pellegrini said his country also regretted it.