Deja Vu All over Again: EU Says No Deal ‘Never Been Closer’ – But Will It Grant Another Delay to Keep Hold of Britain?

President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker (C) kisses EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier (R) next to European Council President Donald Tusk (L) at the end of a press conference following a special meeting of the European Council to endorse the draft Brexit withdrawal agreement and to approve the …
JOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images

After Prime Minister Boris Johnson lost a vote to the Remainer-dominated House of Commons, the Europeans have said that a no deal Brexit is now more likely than ever.

MPs voted on Tuesday night in favour of holding a vote on whether to make no deal Brexit illegal and force the government to ask the EU for a further Brexit delay, likely until January 31st, 2020.

Those who voted to back the Remainer motion included 21 Tory rebels who were later expelled from the Conservative Party. Mr Johnson had warned his colleagues that to vote against the government would weaken his negotiating hand with Brussels while attempting to rewrite the terms of the withdrawal treaty.

EU diplomatic sources have told The Times that they believe Johnson has “lost control” and any further negotiations on the backstop is “pointless” because no new bill would be supported in the Commons.

“We can’t be sure that whatever were to come out of any talks will ever get anywhere. If we were prepared to give up the backstop altogether he is powerless to get it ratified,” they said.

Germany is also said to believe that a clean exit is a more likely option following the lack of progress on removing the backstop, with leaked documents dated from last week and seen by Reuters saying in their own parlance of calling a full withdrawal a disorderly one: “The likelihood of an disorderly exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union on 31 October 2019 has thus increased.”

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier is expected to hold an emergency meeting with colleagues today to advise them that a no deal is a “very distinct possibility” which has “never been closer”. Last week, Barnier had said that he was “not optimistic” about avoiding a no deal Brexit.

It is believed that Eurocrats are hardening to the prospect of granting a further extension, with one diplomat describing the Brexit process as “agony” and that the only extension that should be granted should be for only a matter of weeks “to complete our own no-deal preparedness. We have had enough.”

Another said that the extension would only be granted if there were a “credible purpose” to the extension, with others saying they believe a no-deal exit on October 31st is now more likely than ever.

French President Emmanuel Macron, a leading partner in the bloc, said some months ago that he wants the UK out of the EU to stop the Brexit issue “polluting” the Brussels agenda, saying that October 31st was the “final, final deadline”. It would take the whole of the European Council — leaders of all 27  remaining member states — to vote unanimously to grant a further extension, so despite the best efforts of Britain’s Remainer elites, their plans may be undone by the veto of a hardline Europhile like Macron.

If any of this rhetoric sounds familiar, it’s because it is. The Europeans have talked tough and articulated their Brexit fatigue before, but failed to deliver on their promise of ejecting the UK from the EU, instead granting two more extensions — not out of a European softness or benevolence, or even a desire to fulfil the will of the British people, but that it suits Brussels to keep London tied close to her.

Before the Brexiteer Boris Johnson was prime minister, former premier and Remain voter Theresa May had agreed a withdrawal treaty that not only kept the UK aligned to the EU until December 2020, but was likely set to be the blueprint for the UK’s future relationship with the bloc. The bill failed three times in the House of Commons, but throughout May had pledged 108 times that the UK would leave the EU on March 29th, 2019, with or without a deal.

After May had lost her second vote in early March, the prime minister opened up the suggestion of a Brexit extension. The EU told the UK to prepare for no deal.

“Voting against no deal does not prevent it from happening. Everyone should now finalise preparations for a no-deal scenario,” Mr Barnier had said.

“With only 17 days left to 29 March, today’s vote has significantly increased the likelihood of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit. We will continue our no-deal preparations and ensure that we will be ready if such a scenario arises,” the spokesman for European Council President Donald Tusk had said.

One high-ranking German official in the European Parliament said there was “no reason” to grant an extension beyond March, with France’s Macron saying that unless the British parliament backed the withdrawal treaty, there would be no short, emergency extension either and “it would be a no deal, for sure”.

Nevertheless, one extension was granted to April 12th, and then another to October 31st — with the support of all 27 EU member states.

Either through a soft Brexit withdrawal agreement or a succession of extensions to Article 50, keeping Britain close benefits the bloc not least because of those Eurocrats like Tusk who hope that the British people will change their minds or that to lose the UK would also mean the loss of billions in budget contributions, with the country being the bloc’s third-largest contributor.

Brussels hangs onto the UK to serve as a valuable lesson to other member states on how hard it is to leave — and it appears to be working. The populist Sweden Democrats said earlier in the year that they were abandoning their plans to call for a referendum on Sweden’s membership of the bloc after seeing how the Brexit process was unfolding, saying in February that “clearly the EU does its utmost to complicate Britain’s departure”.

Cutting Britain loose into the cold, outside world would also serve the opposite function, as it would allow the UK to show its European allies that they could survive as independent nations, making their own trade deals beyond the bloc.

“People who worry about the UK ‘crashing out’ of the European Union — that’s the phrase they use — but they’re going to ‘crash’ right into the United States,” President Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton said on what should have been Brexit Day on March 29th, adding: “We’re standing here waiting to make a trade deal with a United Kingdom independent of the European Union.”

Johnson’s loss at the hands of a Remainer-dominated parliament has served to give Eurocrats another opportunity to open a further extension, which would leave Brexit unresolved and vulnerable to further attempts by British parliamentarians to stop it altogether.

If the House of Commons votes tonight to force the government to request a Brexit extension, the Europeans may well reject it and the UK may be leaving, as Mr Johnson pledged, on October 31st. However, those on the continent who view the departure of the UK less as the fulfilment of a democratic mandate set by the people and more of a loss to the soul of the European Project may be inclined to do what it takes to keep the globalist-progressive bloc together.

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