The U.K. is now “very likely” to crash out of the European Union without a deal, the E.U.’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said Tuesday morning, hours after the country’s parliament voted down every available option for moving forward with Brexit.
Speaking to European lawmakers in Brussels, Barnier said a no-deal Brexit, in which the U.K. leaves with no agreements in place over its relationship with the bloc, was becoming “day after day, more likely,” as lawmakers fail to agree on an alternative to the deal negotiated by British Prime Minister Theresa May, which they have now rejected three times.
On Monday night parliament voted down four options proposed by lawmakers for how to move forward, ranging from the idea of retaining key elements of E.U. membership, to holding a new referendum. One of the options failed by just three votes.
“This is a serious crisis and no-one can be pleased with what is happening in the U.K. currently,” Barnier said.
Last month the E.U. granted the U.K. an extension on its original March 29 leaving date, postponing Brexit until April 12. If no deal is reached by then, or no new extension is granted, the U.K. will automatically leave with no deal.
Economists say a no-deal Brexit would have disastrous effects for the British economy, potentially causing more damage than the 2008 financial crisis. It could also lead to shortages of goods including food and medicine.
Barnier said the only ways British lawmakers can avoid a no-deal Brexit are by approving May’s deal or a variant of it that is acceptable to the E.U. – in which case the U.K. would leave on May 22 – or by offering a “strong justification” for a longer extension.
The E.U. negotiator suggested the only possible justification for granting a longer extension would be if the U.K. wanted to hold a new referendum on Brexit, or to hold snap elections to replace May, noting that the extension would not be a chance to return to negotiations with the E.U. “To be clear, during any long extension there will be no renegotiation of the Brexit withdrawal agreement, no, never,” he said.