French President Emmanuel Macron
The French centrist also accused Leave campaigners of attempting to destabilise the European Union, adding they knew from the beginning the Brexit divorce would lead to “chaos”. Mr Bayrou, the head of the MoDem party, told Europe 1 radio: “If it appears that Europe is prepared to do more for those who leave it than for those who are loyal to it, then you’re opening up a Pandora’s box. A lot of European countries will tell themselves: ‘Lucky draw! If we leave, we will be able to keep all the benefits of the EU and free ourselves of its constraints.’ But this is absolutely impossible.”
Mr Bayrou, a close ally of French President Emmanuel Macron, added the messy Brexit experience should serve as a warning to the bloc’s remaining 27 member states.
Referring to the bloc’s refusal to renegotiate the withdrawal agreement, he said: “Let us bear in mind the Brexit example. The British people have already lost a lot and risk losing more in this affair.
“I think that it is impossible for the European authorities to abandon the requirements they have put on the table.”
Mr Bayrou also lashed out at Leave campaigners whom he said had shaken Europe to its core.
French centrist François Bayrou
“Never has history been more dangerous.
“I don’t recall a situation in which the pillars of the European house were called into question by an earthquake triggered by people who knew exactly what they were doing.
“In the long run, it’s an absolute impasse, a chaos, and they knew this is what would happen.”
With just 18 days before the UK is due to leave the EU, there is still no ratified divorce deal and negotiations with Brussels have come to a standstill as Prime Minister Theresa May scrambles to break the political deadlock in London.
Mrs May’s deal was rejected by 230 votes on January 15, ordering her to return to Brussels
European officials said there had been no progress in talks over the weekend and expressed frustration with Mrs May’s attempts to secure last-minute changes to the exit treaty.
The current agreement is the “best and only possible deal,” according to Brussels.
Lawmakers will vote on Tuesday on the withdrawal agreement Mrs May struck with EU officials in November and which they overwhelmingly rejected in January.
If she loses Tuesday’s vote she will face another vote on Wednesday on whether parliament wants to leave the bloc without a deal, with a majority expected to refuse the no-deal scenario.
A third vote would then be held on Thursday on whether the UK should ask the EU for a “short limited extension” of the March 29 Brexit date.
Parliament rejected Mrs May’s deal by 230 votes on January 15, ordering her to return to Brussels to renegotiate the terms of the Irish backstop – an insurance policy designed to prevent the return of a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Many lawmakers disapprove of the policy on the ground that it could leave Britain trapped in a customs union with the EU indefinitely.
“Mrs May has boxed herself even deeper into a corner, it seems the second meaningful vote will go ahead on Tuesday but it also seems like it won’t be the last meaningful vote on this,” one EU official told Reuters.
Jeremy Hunt said on Sunday Brexit might not happen if lawmakers reject the exit deal
“We really want to be over with it now. It’s not going anywhere so even an extension is unlikely to break the impasse. There is not much patience or goodwill left on our side,” the EU source added.
The ultimate outcome remains unclear. Although a Reuters poll published last week found that most economists predict Brexit will be delayed by a few months and that the two sides will eventually agree a free-trade deal.
Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt said on Sunday Brexit might not happen if lawmakers reject the exit deal.
Calls for a second referendum, or “people’s vote,” have grown louder
“We have an opportunity now to leave on March 29 or shortly thereafter and it’s important we grasp that opportunity because there is wind in the sails of people trying to stop Brexit,” Mr Hunt told the BBC.
“We are in very perilous waters.”
Calls for a second referendum, or “people’s vote,” have grown louder in light of the current deadlock.
But a referendum would need to be approved by parliament and Mrs May has ruled out proposing one, saying it would only serve to deepen existing divisions over Brexit.