A no-deal Brexit is now the most likely outcome, arch-Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg said this morning.
Speaking on LBC Radio just hours before MPs will have their say on whether they approve leaving the EU without a deal, the Eurosceptic MP said the vote on blocking no-deal won’t actually change anything because it is not a legally binding motion.
It came as the EU warned it would not allow the UK to extend Brexit without providing a credible reason for doing so.
After rejecting Theresa May’s Brexit deal for the second time yesterday by a margin of 149 votes, MPs will vote this evening on whether they give their support to a no-deal Brexit.
If they say no to no-deal – which looks highly likely since a majority of MPs have done so in the past – Parliament will vote tomorrow on whether they want to delay Brexit.
If the vote to delay Brexit is approved, Mrs May will request an extension to Article 50, the legal mechanism by which a country can quit the EU.
However it is far from guaranteed the EU will say yes to the request.
Speaking in Strasbourg this morning, EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said the 27 member states will demand an explanation as to how a delay would help break the deadlock in the UK Parliament over Brexit.
“Why would we extend these discussions? The discussion on Article 50 is done and dusted,” he said.
“We have the Withdrawal Agreement. It is there.
“That is the question asked and we are waiting for an answer to that.”
The European parliament’s lead Brexit spokesman Guy Verhofstadt cemented the position, warning against an extension without good reason.
He said: “And so I am against every extension, whether an extension of one day, one week, even 24 hours, if it is not based on a clear opinion of the House of Commons for something, that we know what they want.”
He warned that a long extension, that could require the UK to take part in European elections, would play into the hands of Hard Brexiteers like Nigel Farage, who is a member of the European Parliament.
Mr Verhofstadt said: “The only thing we will do, we will give a new mandate to Mr Farage.
“That’s exactly what he wants.
“Why does he want that? For two reasons.
“First of all, he can continue to have a salary that he can transfer to his offshore company.
“And the second thing is that he can continue to do his dirty work in the European Union, that is to try to destroy the European Union from within.”
After Parliament rejected Mrs May’s Brexit deal last night, Mr Barnier said the EU was stepping up its preparations for no deal.
The UK Government today announced its strategy for trade in the event of no-deal, revealing plans to slash tariffs on the majority of goods.
Ministers also published their plan for the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland if a deal cannot be reached, confirming no immediate border checks would be introduced.
Checks on some goods, including food, will take place to comply with international law, but these will happen away from the border.