EU continuing ‘no deal’ Brexit preparations

BRUSSELS (AFP) – The European Union (EU) is keeping up preparations for a chaotic “no deal” outcome to Brexit trade talks with Britain, a spokeswoman said yesterday, as the two sides gear up for stormy negotiations.

The atmosphere leading into the talks, which start on Monday and are supposed to conclude in agreement by December 31, is rapidly souring, with London yesterday rejecting key EU demands and threatening to abandon the process if it is not making progress by June.

The European Commission, which is leading the talks for the 27 EU member states, said it was acting to protect the bloc in the event no deal is reached – an outcome likely to be hugely disruptive on both sides of the Channel.

“The commission maintains its capacity to prepare for no deal following the result of those negotiations, as it of course continues to prepare for a useful and for positive result of those negotiations,” commission spokeswoman Dana Spinant said.

“I would not elaborate on exact structures, on whether we are talking about a formal unit or about teams that are working on no deal from various places… but the commission will keep the eye on the ball for any result of the negotiations which will start on Monday.”

London’s negotiating mandate, published yesterday, rejects the EU call for Britain to mirror the bloc’s standards to continue freely trading its goods with the bloc’s huge single market.

It also states that if the “broad outline” of a deal has not been agreed in time for a high-level meeting planned for June, London could simply abandon the negotiations to concentrate on its own “no deal” planning.

Spinant said the mid-year meeting was “a very fair timeline” to take stock of whether a deal was possible.

But on the matter of financial services – a key concern for Britain with its important banking sector – she refused to commit the EU to completing the so-called equivalence assessments by June.