European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker arrives for an EU summit in Brussels, Friday, Dec. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, Pool)

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker arrives for an EU summit in Brussels, Friday, Dec. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, Pool)

EU leaders vow to press on with ‘no-deal’ Brexit plans

European Union leaders have offered Theresa May sympathy but no promises, as the British prime minister seeks a lifeline.

European Union leaders expressed deep doubts Friday that British Prime Minister Theresa May can live up to her side of their Brexit agreement and they vowed to step up preparations for a potentially-catastrophic “no-deal” scenario.

May cancelled a Brexit vote in the U.K. Parliament this week after it became clear the assembly would reject the deal she concluded with the EU last month. She travelled to Brussels in hope of wringing some concessions from her European partners that would help assuage doubts about the draft divorce agreement back in London.

But EU leaders rejected any attempt to re-negotiate their agreement, a 585-page legal text settling things like the divorce bill and the rights next year of Europeans living in Britain or Britons living in the EU, plus a document laying out their hopes for future relations, which isn’t legally binding. They did publish a short text with “assurances” about how the deal would work.

“Very objectively, the signals that we heard yesterday are not especially reassuring about the capacity in Britain to be able to honour the engagement that was undertaken,” Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel told reporters.

Expressing a “gigantic doubt” that May can get the deal through Parliament, Michel said: “we are going to be sure to prepare for all hypotheses, including the hypothesis of a no-deal.”

No country has ever left the 28-nation EU — the world’s biggest trading bloc — and the rules laying out that process are sketchy. Essentially, Brexit is being made up as the process advances. Court challenges have clarified some of the rules. This week, Europe’s top court ruled that Britain can change its mind about leaving should it want to. One thing is clear: Brexit will happen on March 29, although a transition period will help ease Britain out over almost two, and possibly up to four, years.

Read more: UK Prime Minister Theresa May wins party no-confidence vote, but troubles remain

Read more: UK leader seeks EU lifeline after surviving confidence vote

The prospect of a no-deal has shaken markets and the British pound, and created uncertainty for investors and businesses. Brexit involves Britain leaving around 750 international treaties drawn up over 40 years of membership. One of them is the EU’s aviation market. Without a deal, British planes won’t be able to land in Europe on March 30. Nor will European planes be able to land in the U.K.

May didn’t talk to reporters as she entered EU headquarters early Friday for talks with French President Emmanuel Macron, after shuttling around Europe earlier this week seeking support.

Should she make clear her government’s needs from the EU, and her plan to persuade Parliament to adopt the agreement in January, EU leaders could convene against next month.

Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said that “if there is a need we can always convene.”

Plenkovic said the statement EU leaders released overnight “is a solid signal, first of all to the prime minister, but also to the U.K. Parliament.”

Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel appealed to British MPs to keep the interests of their citizens in mind.

“For internal political reasons some people try to gamble on the relations between the EU and the U.K. for the future. It’s bad. This is the best possible deal,” Bettel said. “They should think about the interests of their voters and people in their country.”

In Britain, Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington, a senior May ally, insisted Thursday’s talks in Brussels had been “a welcome first step,” noting that the EU had said it wanted a “speedy U.K. trade deal” after Brexit.

But opponents of the government said the meeting showed that May’s deal would never get the support of Parliament.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted that May “has tried, credit to her for that, but, as expected, the EU is not open to renegotiation. It’s time to stop this pretense, bring the vote to Parliament and then, when the deal is rejected, seek to bring majority behind a second EU vote. Anything else now is just wasting time.”

___

AP writers Raf Casert and Angela Charlton in Brussels and Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed.

Lorne Cook And Jill Lawless, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The 5th Street Bridge requires structural improvements, new coating to repair and prevent corrosion, and deck repairs. File photo
City of Courtenay awards contract for 5th Street Bridge project

The City of Courtenay has awarded the contract for the rehabilitation of… Continue reading

Pumpjacks pump crude oil near Halkirk, Alta., June 20, 2007.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Larry MacDougal
Gas prices jump in the Valley – and experts predict prices to rise even more

“We still could be talking about record prices…”

NIC Practical Nursing instructor Barb McPherson (right) is pictured with student Rebecca Wood in 2018 in NIC’s SIM lab. NIC photo
Learn about Practical Nursing opportunities for Island students

Students interested in exploring a future in health care are invited to… Continue reading

The Comox Valley Cycling Coalition is hoping to see more bike lines in the Cumberland area. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Cycling coalition wants better bike links for Cumberland

Group says members want more connections with Comox Valley

The Courtenay Legion has identified 16 homeless veterans living in the Comox Valley. File photo
Courtenay Legion unites with Qualicum to help homeless veterans

Last year’s Point-in-Time (PIT) homeless count conducted in the Comox Valley identified… Continue reading

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Older rental apartments are prime candidates for renovations, and could result in lost affordable housing stock. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
B.C.’s renoviction overhaul a good start, but won’t preserve affordable stock, lawyer says

And still no protection for people who can’t pay rent due to COVID-19

Activists from the Fairy Creek Blockades hold the injunction application notice which was submitted by logging company Teal Jones to the B.C. Supreme Court. The application, which asks to have blockaders removed from the sites that stop access to cut blocks, is set to be heard on March 4. (Photo contributed/Joshua Wright)
Activists hunker down to protect Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew from logging

Forest company Teal Cedar applies for injunction to remove seven-month-old blockades

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

The victim of the homicide on Cowichan Lake Road early Monday morning was 17 years old, and was stabbed in the incident. (File photo)
Duncan homicide victim was 17 years old

RCMP report that teenager was stabbed

(File photo)
RCMP arrest man after report of gun-toting threat-maker near Parksville schools

43-year-old man taken into custody; students at nearby schools were asked to stay inside

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

The machines are located in four cities across Canada, including Vancouver and Victoria

Most Read