Theresa May and Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn have argued over the Brexit deal
It was thought headway may finally have been made when the remaining 27 EU members agreed to prepare for trade talks at the EU Summit yesterday.
But confusion still remained as leaders including French President Emmanuel Macron demanded more money from Britain, saying the offer of €20billion was “not even half way” to what he was after.
And as Theresa May faces difficulties to control her party at home, she may need to turn tough, to avoid her rivals turning on her.
There are three possible paths for the negotiations, a deal, a negotiated no deal, or a spiteful no deal.
Ministers say reaching a trade deal is the most likely option, particularly as Britain and EU regulations are already the same, so there is less to negotiate than normal.
Sorting out a transitional agreement, which Theresa May anticipates will last two years, will also be important. It will allow the government to settle some of its more difficult points on a more relaxed timescale.
Rival politicians from the Labour Party have stoked public panic about an spiteful no deal outcome – the second scenario the PM must consider.
This is what will happen if the Prime Minister’s tough stance on the EU divorce bill, backed by the Conservative Party, means the EU refuses to start trade talks.
Theresa May impressed at the EU summit and is now set to begin talks
It could also happen if the EU is too restrictive in its trade agreement and forces Britain to comply with huge amounts of regulatory red tape.
As Brexit-backing MPs hoped the country would be free to make its own trade agreements around the world, this could make their plans difficult and cause them to withdraw their support.
Remainer politicians fear the worst possible outcome of an acrimonious no deal. Commercial flights could not take off, ports would become log jammed and living costs would rise.
However it needn’t all be doom and gloom in this case as a no deal as a result of refusing to pay the divorce bill could also be an opportunity to get rid of red tape and become a business haven by offering lower tax rates.
And a spiteful no deal would be bad for the EU as well as the UK.
The third possible outcome is a negotiated no deal – which needn’t be chaotic at all.
If after settling the divorce bill, the UK Government can’t strike a deal that can keep both sides (and importantly Theresa May’s Cabinet) happy, Britain might choose to walk away from talks before 2019.
However there could still be agreements on some key areas where progress has already been made, and in this case the divorce bill would also be ripped up.
The reassurance over what it would mean to fail to reach a Brexit deal comes after weeks of scare-mongering.
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The Brexit negotiations have stalled recently as the two sides failed to come to an agreement on issues including the divorce payment and citizens rights.
Labour MPs have blasted the government over the deadlock claiming a no deal Brexit would bring the country to its knees.
Earlier this week Jeremy Corbyn attempted to undermine Theresa May by telling European Union bosses that achieving “no deal” on Brexit is simply not an option.
He said: “We cannot countenance the idea that we just run headlong into no deal in Europe.
Jeremy Corbyn has slammed May over fears she may choose ‘no deal’
Jean-Claude Juncker has also blasted ‘no deal’ as a bad idea
“No deal would be catastrophic for manufacturing, industry and jobs. I don’t want to see that.”
He accused the PM of creating “chaos”, however whether a no deal Brexit would bring genuine chaos remains questionable.
And yesterday at the EU Summit European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker hit out at the British negotiators, claiming they didn’t grasp the consequences of a no deal.
During a press conference he said: “When I said no one had explained to me what a no deal meant, I meant that no member of the UK delegation has explained what a no deal means.
“We in the EU Commission, myself and Donald Tusk, know perfectly well what a no deal may mean.
“Nobody explains in detail what they mean.
“It’s some kind of British way of carrying out collective education because nobody explained in the first place, to the British people, what Brexit actually meant.
“The Commission does not want a no deal situation, we’re working hard for a fair and just deal.”