'No-deal increasingly likely': Heiko Maas on latest Brexit defeat

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'No-deal increasingly likely': Heiko Maas on latest Brexit defeat
Demonstrators outside Westminster in London on Tuesday. Photo: DPA

Britain crashing out of the EU with no deal in place is becoming an increasingly likely scenario, Germany's Foreign Minister said Tuesday.


It came after parliament in London rejected an agreement thrashed out by Prime Minister Theresa May and EU leaders.

"With this (parliamentary) decision, we are getting closer and closer to a no-deal scenario," said Heiko Maas, accusing the UK of "gambling carelessly with the well-being of citizens and the economy".

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"Unfortunately, I can only say that at the moment Germany has prepared for all the worst cases as well as possible."

However, he added that he still hoped Britain could avoid a "disorderly" Brexit.

As The Local reported, the latest development continues to leave British citizens in the EU in limbo. After the vote, groups called for authorities to protect their rights.

"We need the EU Council to agree to ring fence and rescue our rights to be able to keep our jobs, stay in our homes, get medical treatment or be paid our pensions," said British in Germany on Twitter.

'The best and only deal'

British MPs resoundingly rejected May's Brexit deal for a second time on Tuesday, plunging the
country into further uncertainty just 17 days before it is due to split from the EU.

The House of Commons voted 391-242 against the divorce deal, even after May secured further guarantees from Brussels over its most controversial elements.

SEE ALSO: Brits across Germany urged to apply for residence permit

The move risks unleashing economic chaos, as Britain is scheduled to end ties with its biggest trade partner after 46 years on March 29, no matter what.

Appearing before MPs in a voice half-breaking due to a cold, May defiantly vowed to fight on, saying she "profoundly" rejected the outcome.

"The deal we've negotiated is the best and indeed the only deal," she told the hushed chamber moments after the vote.

May promised to allow MPs to vote on a "no deal" option on Wednesday and, if that is rejected as expected, to decide on Thursday whether to ask the EU to delay Brexit.

She said parliament faced "unenviable choices" if it voted for an extension, including revoking Brexit, holding a second referendum or leaving with another deal.

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However, eurosceptics believe the current deal is so bad that it is worth the risk of leaving with no plan.

The latest vote comes two years after Britain set the clock ticking on its departure from the EU following a highly divisive referendum in 2016.

Michel Barnier, the EU chief Brexit negotiator, said Brussels had nothing more to offer and must now brace for the possibility of a messy divorce.

"The EU has done everything it can to help get the Withdrawal Agreement over the line," Barnier tweeted.

"The impasse can only be solved in the #UK. Our 'no-deal' preparations are now more important than ever before."

But a spokeswoman for European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said EU members would consider a "reasoned request" for a Brexit delay.

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'Deal is dead'

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour party who has been trying to force snap elections, said May must now admit that her government's overarching strategy had failed.

"Their deal, their proposal, the one the prime minister's put, is clearly dead," Corbyn said, calling on her to negotiate for a softer Brexit to keep close economic ties with the EU.

After MPs first rejected the 585-page Brexit deal in January, May promised changes to the hated backstop plan which is intended to keep open the border with EU member Ireland.

She announced she had secured the promised "legally binding changes" to the backstop -- which would keep Britain in the EU's customs union if and until a new way was found to avoid frontier checks -- after a last-minute trip to Strasbourg to meet EU leaders on the eve of the vote.

 'No third chance'

The backstop is designed to protect the peace process in Northern Ireland, which involved the removal of border checks with the Republic of Ireland.

Brexit supporters wanted a unilateral way out of it, or a time limit to the arrangement, but the EU said this would make it worthless.

Leaders across Europe also united behind a message that this was the best and final offer Britain could expect.

"There will be no third chance," Juncker said after his talks on Monday with May.

If MPs vote against a no-deal exit on Wednesday, and want to postpone Brexit, the other 27 EU nations would need to agree.

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Their leaders will meet in Brussels for a summit on March 21-22.

But any postponement may have to be short-lived. Juncker on Monday said Brexit "should be complete before the European elections" at the end of May.



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