There appears to be no parliamentary majority for a no-deal Brexit, Peter Altmaier says.
Berlin is signaling that London should be given more time to figure out its position after the crushing rejection of Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal by the House of Commons.
“The first conclusion I can draw from all I have seen and witnessed is that apparently there is no majority for a no-deal Brexit,” German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier told the BBC’s Today program. “This is a very important message because it would calm down markets, it would preserve jobs on both sides of the channel.”
“I have not yet seen a clear position on how to proceed further,” Altmaier said. “The U.K. should have sufficient time to clarify its position and, if needed, the European Union should allow for additional time in order to achieve a clear position by the British parliament and people.”
Asked about a potential extension of Article 50, the minister said that “we should wait until parliament has come to the conclusions, and then we should consider what we can do. When parliament needs more time, then this is something that certainly will have be considered by the European Council. Personally, I would see this as a reasonable request.”
The European Commission made it clear that there is no room for manoeuvre on the deal, Altmeier said, adding, however, that when it comes to an “acceptable approach” on how to move forward, “then of course we should all be ready to cooperate.”
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said it was not clear what the U.K. wanted | Alex Halada/AFP via Getty Images
The minister’s comments echoed a tweet by Germany’s foreign minister, Heiko Maas.
“In terms of things #Brexit, the ball is now in the UK’s court,” the foreign minister wrote. “It didn’t become clear yesterday what they want — just what they don’t want,” he tweeted, noting that “in Germany, we have passed two major legislative packages in order to be prepared for everything. But: We hope for reason.”
In Brussels, officials are cautious about what comes next.
The ball “has been and is still on U.K.’s side,” said one EU diplomat.
For many officials, now is the time to intensify preparations for a potential no-deal Brexit.
“I believe that it’s now up to the British government to clarify further its intentions but as the risk of a no-deal Brexit has unfortunately increased, the EU27 should also take all necessary steps to ensure that they are prepared for all eventualities as the date is approaching,” said another EU diplomat.
Some diplomats said the focus should now be on making sure the bloc’s remaining members stick together.
A third diplomat suggested the bloc should “keep calm, ensure unity among the EU27 and — if wished for — provide our British friends with the phone number of a good shrink.”