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EU Ramps Up No-Deal Preparations As It Weighs UK's Brexit Ultimatum

By Donna Ahern
EU Ramps Up No-Deal Preparations As It Weighs UK's Brexit Ultimatum

The European Union was on Friday ramping up preparations for a tumultuous end to the four-year Brexit saga as top officials prepared to brief its 27 members on British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's plan to break the divorce treaty.

In one of the most extraordinary turns since the 2016 Brexit referendum, Britain explicitly said this week that it plans to break international law by breaching parts of the Withdrawal Agreement treaty that is signed in January.

Johnson's move, which Britain says is aimed at clarifying ambiguities, plunged Brexit into crisis less than four months before the United Kingdom is due to leave the EU's orbit at the end of the so called transition period which ends in December.

The EU has ordered Britain to scrap the plan by the end of September but Britain bluntly refused and said its parliament was sovereign above international law.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said on Thursday, after talks in London, that the bloc was stepping up plans for a no-deal Brexit at the end of this year as trade talks had made little progress.

"The UK has not engaged in a reciprocal way on fundamental EU principles and interests," Barnier said. "Nobody should underestimate the practical, economic and social consequences of a 'no deal' scenario."

'Ramped Up Estimates' 

As investment banks ramped up their estimates of the chances of a tumultuous end to Britain's divorce from the bloc it first joined in 1973, sterling fell against the dollar and the euro.

Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic demanded that Britain scrap the planned Internal Market Bill by the end of September, though Britain refused and said parliament would debate the bill on Monday.

But the bill will face opposition in both houses of parliament as many senior British politicians have expressed shock that London could so clumsily proclaim a breach of international law.

"The government will have to think again," said Norman Lamont, a Brexit supporting member of the House of Lords who was finance minister when the pound crashed out of the Exchange Rate Mechanism in 1992.

"I don't think this will get through the Lords, in its present form," Lamont said. "It is impossible to defend. They'll have to think again."

Barnier's team will brief the 27 members of the EU on the progress of trade talks on Friday.

News by Reuters edited by Checkout. Click subscribe to sign up for the Checkout print edition.

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