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EU’s Barnier says Britain has limited Brexit choices

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(FILES) In this file photo taken on November 25, 2018 EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier arrives at a special meeting of the European Council to endorse the draft Brexit withdrawal agreement and to approve the draft political declaration on future EU-UK relations in Brussels. – As a EU Brexit negociator, Barnier gained prestige in the European Union, AFP reported on March 10, 2019. (Photo by Philippe LOPEZ / AFP)

EU negotiator Michel Barnier warned on Monday that whatever the shifting political situation in Britain its options are limited and unchanged — deal, no deal or no Brexit.

“Today, the fundamental choices in front of the United Kingdom remain the same: deal, no deal, no Brexit,” Barnier told reporters in Nicosia after updating Cypriot authorities on the latest developments.

“Whatever happens and whatever the political situation in the UK, the issues and solutions remain the same,” he added.

Barnier said the EU has “always been working for a deal” and the withdrawal agreement is the “only way to ensure an orderly withdrawal”.

He noted the discussion in Britain is not about the withdrawal agreement itself, but the future relationship.

“Let me be clear: if the United Kingdom still wants to leave, ratifying the withdrawal agreement is the only way to secure a transition period,” said Barnier.

He said the period of transition would give Britain time to sort out its negotiation positions and give time to both sides to figure out what specific arrangements are necessary for relation to the Northern Irish border.

“We have offered all options to the United Kingdom, from the Single Market to the Customs Union or a Free Trade Agreement. We are now waiting for clarity from the United Kingdom,” said Barnier.

While there are mixed messages coming from London, Barnier said Brussels would keep preparing for a no deal.

“This is not and will not be the EU’s choice. It is for the UK to take its responsibilities.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May said Sunday she was preparing to make a “bold offer” to members of parliament in a final attempt to get them to back her Brexit deal.

May on Thursday agreed to set out a timetable for her departure following the vote in the week beginning June 3, regardless of whether lawmakers back her deal at the fourth time of asking.

On the status of two military sovereign bases retained by Britain in Cyprus, Barnier said the objective was not to disrupt the current state of affairs where 10,000 Cypriots reside and are free to move between these areas and the Republic of Cyprus.

“Our common objective is to preserve the status quo and avoid disrupting the life of the people living in the bases,” he said.

Cypriot Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides said giving Britain additional time on how it wants to proceed “was vital under the circumstances, providing much-needed space and certainty for our citizens and for our businesses”.


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