Muscat: The UK’s bid to leave the EU may never happen if a negotiated Brexit deal is rejected in parliament, Prime Minister Theresa May warned.
Speaking in Grimsby, May said, “Back it and the UK will leave the European Union. Reject it and we do not know what the consequences will be.
“We may not leave the EU for many months; we may leave without the protections that the deal provides; or we may never leave at all.”
British MPs are due to vote on the deal on 12 March. Should the deal be rejected, MPs will vote on whether to leave without a deal and whether to delay Brexit.
In her speech, May also warned that leaving without a deal could breakup the UK, stating, “While leaving with a deal will help keep our United Kingdom together, whereas polling shows that support for both Scottish independence and a United Ireland would increase if we leave without a deal.
“By coming together as a Parliament, we can bring our country together and take a decisive step toward the bright future that the British people voted for, and which you and our whole country deserve.”
Her remarks were followed by the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier agreeing that the UK could unilaterally leave the customs union, an aspect of May’s deal that has proved to be highly contentious among many MPs.
Briefing the media after speaking to the ambassadors of the EU 27 and the EU Parliament, Barnier said, “EU commits to giving the UK the option to exit the Single Customs Territory unilaterally, while the other elements of the backstop must be maintained to avoid a hard border.”
Barnier added, “UK will not be forced into a customs union against its will.”
The biggest stumbling block to May’s already negotiated deal has been the so-called backstop, a provision to keep the Irish border open after the UK leaves. Eurosceptic MPs fear it could trap the Uk into abiding by EU trading rules indefinitely.