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Juncker sees “no deal” Brexit as very likely, saying April 12 could be “ultimate deadline”

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker releases statement saying a “no deal” Brexit is not the outcome he wants, but the EU has preparedness measures in place to meet it

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A “no deal” Brexit is now very likely at midnight on April 12, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said in a statement this afternoon. If the House of Commons fails to approve the Withdrawal Agreement by then, no extension will be granted and the UK will be out, Juncker made clear.

Juncker notes that the European Council had paved the way for an extension of the Article 50 negotiation period until the May 22, on the condition the Withdrawal Agreement was approved by the House of Commons by March 29.

The House of Commons failed to approve the Agreement then and then rejected four other options on Monday which would have indicated a way forward for the UK’s approach to Brexit.

Instead, Prime Minister Theresa May has made a direct appeal to Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the UK opposition Labour party, to work together to come up with an approach that will avoid a no-deal exit.

Reacting to May’s latest move, Juncker said today that if the UK is in a position to approve the Withdrawal Agreement with a sustainable majority by April 12, the European Union should be prepared to accept a delay until May 22.

“But April 12 is the ultimate deadline for the approval of the Withdrawal Agreement by the House of Commons. If it has not done so by then, no further short extension will be possible. After April 12, we risk jeopardising the European Parliament elections, and so threaten the functioning of the European Union,” he added.

Juncker said that the EU was adequately prepared for a no-deal, having worked towards it since 2017.

“We have been preparing since December 2017. We have always known that the logic of Article 50 makes a “no-deal” the default outcome. We have long been aware of the balance of power in the House of Commons,” Juncker said in his statement.

"Unless the Prime Minister can secure the speedy support of the leader of the opposition, another short extension would only prolong the misery for businesses and the country" - Ian Wright, chief executive of UK Food and Drink Federation.

In that time, Juncker notes that the Commission has published 91 preparedness notices, 32 non-legislative acts, 19 legislative proposals and 3 Communications to prepare for a cliff edge departure by the UK from the EU.

Juncker noted that much of the debate in the House of Commons has related to the future relationship between the EU and the UK, which is the content of the Political Declaration, rather than the Withdrawal Agreement.

“The European Union stands ready to add flexibility to the Political Declaration, to pave the way for a close economic partnership between the European Union and the United Kingdom in the future,” Juncker notes.

“On the EU side, we stand ready to launch the talks and negotiations on the future partnership as soon as the Withdrawal Agreement is signed. Before the ink is dry. The Commission’s negotiating team is in place. Michel Barnier, our Chief Negotiator, is ready. I would expect the same level of readiness on the United Kingdom side,” Juncker added.

In the meantime, mitigation measures to buffer the impact of a no-deal exit include allowing the EU and UK citizens to continue to live and work where they are at the moment.

“(The measures) …make sure that planes can take off and land. We have adapted our financial instrument to make it possible to help fishing communities. We have identified the ways in which law enforcement cooperation can continue. We have taken steps to mitigate disruption on our financial markets,” Juncker said.

But he said disruption will be inevitable for citizens, for businesses and for almost every sector.

Ian Wright, chief executive of the UK Food and Drink Federation (FDF), said time and money were being poured into planning for an unclear outcome.

“Food and drink manufacturers are spending money, time and effort trying to plan under a cloud of perpetual uncertainty. A further extension to article 50 must be sufficient to allow for a new plan to emerge. Unless the Prime Minister can secure the speedy support of the leader of the opposition, another short extension would only prolong the misery for businesses and the country,” Wright said.


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