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Frustrated France says Brexit deadline could be pushed back but 'deal cannot be reopened'

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Frustrated France says Brexit deadline could be pushed back but 'deal cannot be reopened'
Photo: AFP
10:04 CET+01:00
France's Minister for Europe said on Wednesday the Brexit deadline could be pushed back if the UK request it, but dismissed the idea of the deal being renegotiated saying "we have other things to do in Europe than busy ourselves with this divorce."

The European Union could push back the looming March 29th Brexit deadline if London made such a request, France's Europe Minister Nathalie Loiseau said on Wednesday a day after Theresa May's Brexit deal was thrown out by British MPs

"Legally, technically, it's possible," Loiseau told France Inter radio adding that the rejection of May's deal was "bad news" for all parties.

"The British need to ask for it and there needs to be a unanimous agreement among the 27 other members of the European Union to say: 'Alright, you chose March 29 as the leaving date... Ok, we'll push it back."

But she suggested that any notion the deal could be reopened and renegotiated is deeply optimistic on the part of the British.

Her comments came the morning after Britain's parliament overwhelmingly rejected the deal negotiated by Prime Minister Theresa May to leave the EU. 

Loiseau stressed that other EU nations considered the deal already on the table to be "the only one possible". 

 "The agreement cannot be looked at again," Loiseau said. "We have really explored all the options. If you want an orderly separation which allows Britain to stay close to the European Union in the future, this is the agreement," she added.

"The other options... are either no deal, or no Brexit."

“The text cannot be re-opened especially after we've gone 17 months with all the comings and goings. It's been one third of my work since I became minister, which is a bit excessive...

"We have other things to do in Europe than busy ourselves with this divorce…”

Loiseau summed the frustration on the part of EU member states with Britain's deeply divided parliament.

"We see there is no majority for this agreement, but we don't know what there is a majority for…they want to leave the European Union to do what?” she said.

Asked why Britain's departure from the EU was proving so problematic Loiseau said: “A certain number of British, including British politicians, didn't realise what being a member of the EU meant.” She added: there had been “massive misinformation” during the referendum campaign".

 In a message to Britain, she said: "Hurry up... March 29th is right around the corner." 

The same point was stressed by the EU's negotiator Michel Barnier who warned Wednesday that the British parliament's overwhelming rejection of a negotiated Brexit deal increases the risk that Britain will crash out of the European Union without an agreement.

"We are 10 weeks from the 31st of March and at 10 weeks the risk of a no deal has never seemed so high," Barnier told a session of the European Parliament in the eastern French city of Strasbourg.

Speaking sortly after May's crushing defeat French President Emmanuel Macron said it was likely an extension to the Brexit deadline would have to be negotiated.

"Either way, we will have to negotiate a transition period with them because the British cannot afford to no longer have planes taking off or landing at home, and their supermarkets, as much as 70 percent, are supplied by continental Europe."

"Second option, they tell us... 'We'll try to improve what we can get from the Europeans and then hold the vote again.

"In that case, we'll look into it. Maybe we'll make improvements on one or two things, but I don't really think so because we've reached the maximum of what we could do with the deal."

 
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