EU will renegotiate with Theresa May if her Brexit deal is voted down, says former European commission president

Romano Prodi says it is important to ‘keep free trade’ to avoid the negative consequences of no deal

Saturday 08 December 2018 17:36 GMT
Theresa May vows to push ahead with Commons vote despite pleas for delay

The European Union will renegotiate with Theresa May if she loses the crunch vote on her Brexit deal on 11 December, according to a former European Commission president.

Romano Prodi, who served in the role from 1999 to 2004, said it was crucial that the European Union took steps to avoid the negative consequences of the UK crashing out of the bloc without a deal in March, which would become a significant possibility if Ms May loses the vote this week.

The comments are in direct contradiction to the current commission president Jean-Claude Juncker who has repeatedly said that Ms May’s deal is the only one on offer.

Mr Juncker has told MPs who are considering voting down the agreement in the hope they can secure a better deal that they will be left “disappointed” if they do so.

Mr Prodi however claimed that if the situation where Ms May is unable to get her deal through the Commons the EU would respond by going back to the negotiating table.

“We must keep free trade between us because it is in the British interests and European interest. The UK has no alternative – the EU is a large part of its trade,” he told The Observer. “Always the problem of Northern Ireland, but it is possible. Common sense helps.”

The comments will be well received by Downing Street as speculation about the prime minister’s future has been rife.

Politicians from both sides of the political spectrum have publicly said Ms May should consider her position if she does not win the vote next week.

Former Tory leader Michael Howard said Ms May would have “difficult decisions to make about her future and about the future of our country”.

This view is not held by all MPs with some pushing for a Norway-plus deal as a possible alternative if Ms May fails to get the necessary support for her agreement.

These suggestions that have been repeatedly quashed by Downing Street, who are adamant Ms May’s deal is the only one on offer.

Work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd has, however, put her weight behind a Norway-style relationship with the EU.

In a Times interview she also attacked Eurosceptics, backing a harder Brexit, saying: “The people who want the hard Brexit think it is worth the pain in order to have something better further on and I think a lot of us — perhaps it is more a women’s thing, we think more about the monthly budget, minimising risk — are less seduced by the idea of breaking it all up to remake it more beautifully.”

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