The EU’s Chief Brexit Negotiator has warned the Withdrawal Agreement is the UK’s only option for an “orderly exit” from the EU.
Speaking to the New York Review of Books, Michel Barnier said the UK has the option to leave without a deal but the only way it will leave with a deal is to accept the one currently on the table.
His comments follow the start of the race to succeed Prime Minister Theresa May who said she would resign as the leader of the ruling Conservative party on 7th June.
There are currently 11 MPs who have formally announced their candidacy for the leadership while others may still follow.
Many of the candidates, including Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt who is one of the few to rule out no deal, say they plan to take a new delegation to Brussels to renegotiate the Northern Irish backstop.
But Barnier said: “If the choice is to leave without a deal — fine. If the choice is to stay in the EU — also fine. But if the choice is still to leave the EU in an orderly manner, this treaty is the only option. This is all that our legal constraints allow.”
He added that the EU is prepare to consider “alternative arrangements” to the backstop plan which could keep the UK in the customs union indefinitely to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.
But he said these discussions can only take place once the backstop is already in place because “none of these arrangements are operational today”.