Brexit: EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier says UK 'can stay'

Barnier says anything is possible until just before planned exit date of 12 April

Jon Stone
Wednesday 27 March 2019 11:22 GMT
EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier says UK 'can still stay'

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator has said the UK “can stay” in the EU if it wants to.

Speaking in the European Parliament on Wednesday Michel Barnier said “everything is possible” up until 11 April, the day before the new Brexit deadline.

“No one in Brussels is trying to steal Brexit from you, no one is trying to undo the vote put to the British people,” he said.

“But it is not Brussels that decided that the UK would leave the European Union: you were the ones that made that choice and you are the ones who have to take that responsibility and face up to your decisions. No one else.”

Mr Barnier added: “It is up to Britain to decide, one way or another ... to decide how to shoulder that responsibility and to choose what it wants for this future, and ultimately to bear the consequences of the decisions that it has taken.

“The United Kingdom wants to leave the EU, that means it wants to leave the customs union, the single market, and it will bear the consequences of that – but of course, as President [Donald] Tusk has said, it can still say. Anything is possible up until 11 April.”

European Council president Donald Tusk and European Commission president have both said that though they respect the result of the referendum, the door is open to the UK if it wants to change its mind before it leaves.

Last week EU leaders agreed to extend the deadline for the UK leaving until 12 April at the request of Theresa May. If the UK parliament approves the withdrawal agreement this week it will get a further extension until 22 May to pass the necessary legislation.

The European Council also left the door open to a longer extension, but only on the condition that the UK participates in European Parliament elections scheduled for May. The UK would have to notify its intention to do so by 12 April.

Over six million people have signed an official parliamentary petition calling for Article 50 to be revoked – a move that would essentially cancel Brexit, or suspend it for at least two years. A million people marched in London calling for a second referendum at the weekend.

Polls suggest a narrow lead for Remain in a straight in-out referendum, with a wider margin when the choice is between Remain and a no-deal or Theresa May's deal.

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