BRUSSELS – The European Union said it was horrified by the massive scale of the U.K. Parliament defeat of the Brexit deal agreed with Prime Minister Theresa May but said there was no option to renegotiate.
Diplomats said they were stunned by the extent of the loss. As they tried on Tuesday night to plot the EU response, they said they think there’s little more they can do to help May and fear that the U.K. tumbling out without agreement in March has now become a real prospect.
Despite only 10 weeks to go until the U.K.’s scheduled departure, officials in Brussels ruled out the prospect of an extraordinary summit of the 27 EU leaders any time soon. They said there’s little to discuss if lawmakers in the U.K. can’t decide what they want.
European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker told the U.K: “Time is almost up.”
“We have shown creativity and flexibility throughout,” Juncker said. The deal is the “only way to ensure an orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom.”
Previously, EU officials had suggested that a much smaller defeat of the Brexit deal, of around 60 votes, would give them something to work with and that they had some concessions up their sleeves to get it over the line.
But the loss by 230 is greater even than many feared, leading to a sense of confusion about what to do for the best. They will restart talks with May but will resist going back on what’s already been agreed.
Some on the EU side can barely conceal their anger that May has been unable to sell a deal to lawmakers after more than 18 months of negotiation with Brussels.
“The EU-27 will remain united and responsible as we have been throughout the entire process and will seek to reduce the damage caused by Brexit,” Preben Aamaan, spokesman for EU President Donald Tusk said. “We will continue our preparations for all outcomes, including a no-deal scenario.”
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said it’s “up to the British to assume the consequence of their choice,” while Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte was a little more upbeat: “Despite this setback, it does not mean we are in a no-deal situation,” he said on Twitter.
All agree that it’s for the U.K. government to decide on the next steps.
It’s a “sad day for Europe,” German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said.
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