BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union said on Wednesday it was not shutting the door to a Brexit deal but stressed that London needed to change its stance considerably to secure an agreement.
With Britain due to leave the bloc on Oct. 31, the comments by European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker and Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier were aimed more at sidestepping any blame for whatever the final outcome of the increasingly intractable divorce than signalling a deal was in the making.
“I don’t accept this blame game that started in London. Personally, I don’t exclude a deal,” Juncker told the European Parliament’s plenary session. “The risk of a no-deal remains real and basically is going to come down to a decision by the UK government, but will never be the choice – the preferred option – of the European Union.
“That’s why I think it is better now to focus on what we can do in terms of concluding that deal, something which is desirable and still, in my view, possible.”
Barnier listed the main reasons why the EU could not accept the latest UK proposals on Brexit: customs solutions envisaged for the island of Ireland, the role of Northern Irish authorities, a lack of legally operable solutions to ensure it all works and weak clauses on fair competition.
“To put things frankly, we are not really in a position to be able to find agreement with the UK,” he said. “EU cannot accept UK proposal, as it is today, as it would replace an operational, practical, legal solution with a hypothetical and provisional solution.
“What we are being asked for is in reality to accept a system that has not been developed, properly tested… it will largely be based on exemptions and deregations,