European Council President Donald Tusk has claimed that the UK mustn’t betray the “increasing majority” of British people who want to cancel Brexit and stay in the European Union.
Mr Tusk, speaking to the European Parliament, hailed those who marched on the streets of London and the near six million who have signed the Parliamentary petition asking for Article 50 to be revoked.
Tusk reprimanded those who voiced concerns about a potential lengthy extension to article 50 in the event of the Commons rejecting the withdrawal agreement again this week.
“Let me make one personal remark to the members of this parliament. Before the European council, I said that we should be open to a long extension if the UK wishes to rethink its Brexit strategy, which would, of course, mean the UK’s participation in the European Parliament elections. And then there were voices saying that this would be harmful or inconvenient to some of you,” Tusk said.
“Let me be clear: such thinking is unacceptable. You cannot betray the 6 million people who signed the petition to revoke article 50, the 1 million people who marched for a people’s vote, or the increasing majority of people who want to remain in the European Union”
Earlier this week, the EU said it had completed its preparations for the UK crashing out of Europe with ‘no deal’ on 12 April.
It follows the decision to grant Prime Minister Theresa May’s request to extend the UK’s departure date to 22 May provided her Withdrawal Agreement is approved by the House of Commons by this Friday 29 March at the latest.
If the Withdrawal Agreement is not approved by the House of Commons by then, the European Council has agreed to an extension until 12 April.
If it comes to that, the EU said, the United Kingdom is expected to indicate to it how it sees the way forward before 12 April.
But, said the EU, it now believes it is “increasingly likely that the United Kingdom will leave the European Union without a deal”.
Therefore, it said, it is urging all EU citizens and businesses to continue informing themselves about the consequences of a possible “no-deal” scenario and to complete their own no-deal preparedness.
Travellers from Britain will get a stamp in their British passport every time they enter and leave the EU as border checks are tightened up.
UK nationals will have the right to visa-free travel for short stays in the EU (90 days in any 180-day period), if the UK grants the same arrangement to citizens of all EU member states: “Your passport will be stamped both when you enter the EU and when you leave it, so that this period of 90 days, which is visa-free, can be calculated.”
British travellers may be asked by border guards to provide information on the purpose of their visit and means of subsistence during their stay. Luggage will be subject to customs checks.
No deal will also mean the return of duty-free and the right of British travellers to claim a refund of VAT paid on goods during their stay in the EU, provided they have the right documents.
British travellers will lose their right to access healthcare through the European health insurance card, and phone companies can reimpose roaming charges for British travellers in the EU.
Countries that trade heavily with the UK are hiring hundreds of customs officers and are building border inspection posts to restart checks on animal, food and plant products.
The Netherlands plans to recruit 900 customs officers at the port of Rotterdam, France is taking on 700 and Belgium 300-400. More than half of these officers are already working, and the rest are expected to be in post by the end of this year or early next year.
The EU said delays can’t be avoided: “Disruption will occur… nothing will be smooth … There will be frictions, it’s pretty clear.”
If the UK crashes out of the EU on 12 April the British government will have six days to decide whether to pay its dues into the 2019 EU budget, thus enabling British farmers, researchers and other recipients to receive EU funds.
Brussels said that EU leaders at last week’s European Council (Article 50) called for work to be continued on preparedness and contingency.
While a “no-deal” scenario is not desirable, it said, the EU is prepared for it while it continues to hope that it will not be the case.
If the Withdrawal Agreement is not ratified by this Friday (29 March), a “no-deal” scenario may follow on 12 April.
“It is now important that everyone is ready for and aware of the practical consequences a “no-deal” scenario brings,” said the EU.
The UK will become a third country without any transitionary arrangements. All EU primary and secondary law will cease to apply to the UK from that moment onwards. There will be no transition period, as provided for in the Withdrawal Agreement. This will obviously cause significant disruption for citizens and businesses.
In such a scenario, the UK’s relations with the EU would be governed by general international public law, including rules of the World Trade Organisation.