EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier warned on Monday that whatever the shifting political situation in Britain its options are limited and unchanged – deal, no deal or no Brexit.
“Today, the fundamental choices in front of the United Kingdom remain the same: deal, no deal, no Brexit,” Barnier told reporters in Nicosia after updating Cypriot authorities on the latest developments.
“Whatever happens and whatever the political situation in the UK, the issues and solutions remain the same,” he added.
Barnier said the EU has “always been working for a deal” and the withdrawal agreement is the “only way to ensure an orderly withdrawal”.
He noted discussion in the UK is not about the withdrawal agreement itself, but the future relationship.
“Let me be clear: if the United Kingdom still wants to leave, ratifying the withdrawal agreement is the only way to secure a transition period,” said Barnier.
He said the period of transition would give the UK time to sort out its negotiation positions and give time to both sides to figure out what specific arrangements are necessary in relation to the Northern Irish border.
“We have offered all options to the United Kingdom, from the Single Market to the Customs Union or a Free Trade Agreement. We are now waiting for clarity from the United Kingdom,” said Barnier.
While there are mixed messages coming from London, Barnier said Brussels would keep preparing for a no deal.
“This is not and will not be the EU’s choice. It is for the UK to take its responsibilities.”
On the status of two military sovereign bases retained by the UK on the island, Barnier said the objective was not to disrupt the current state of affairs where 10,000 Cypriots reside and are free to move between these areas and the Republic of Cyprus.
“Our common objective is to preserve the status quo and avoid disrupting the life of the people living in the bases.”
Cypriot Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides said the agreement “provides the best and only way to ensure a smooth and orderly Brexit with the least adverse consequences for all”.
He said giving Britain additional time on how wants to proceed “was vital under the circumstances, providing much needed space and certainty for our citizens and for our businesses”.
Cyprus urged Britain to achieve a breakthrough that leads to a ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement.
“We have prepared for all scenarios, in order to ensure that the impact on the daily lives of our citizens and on our economies will be minimized, irrespective of the time and the way in which Brexit will eventually occur,” said Christodoulides.