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EU ramps up no-deal plans amid deep freeze in Brexit talks

Luke James
Brussels correspondent
Prime minister Theresa May and European commission president Jean-Claude Juncker (Getty)

The European commission is preparing to set out its most detailed plan yet for a no-deal Brexit amid a winter freeze in talks with Theresa May.

The EU’s executive will publish on Wednesday the legal measures it’s putting in place to prepare for the increasingly likely possibility of the UK crashing out without a deal next March.

It reportedly includes plans for the EU to unilaterally extend existing arrangements — over transport, citizens’ rights and financial services — for a period of six to nine months.

That would mean travellers, traders and UK citizens living in the EU would not immediately feel the full impact of a hard Brexit on 29 March, 2019.

It would help avoid a financial crisis by providing a “soft landing in a few sensitive areas,” an EU source told Politico.

Another diplomat said the UK government, which rushed out details of its own no-deal plans on Monday, was expected to reciprocate.

The plans have been held back for months by Brussels for fear they could inflame the situation in Westminster, but the commission has to introduce the legislation now in order for it to be signed-off by the European parliament and council by the time Brexit happens.

READ MORE: UK government prepares to spend £2bn on Brexit prep as no deal looms

The development also reflects a growing fear across the EU over a looming no-deal Brexit, which increased during last week’s disastrous summit talks with the prime minister.

EU leaders were left with even less confidence the Brexit deal will get through the UK parliament after an almost hour-long question and answer session with May.

Tentative plans for written assurances over the Irish border backstop and a special summit in January were subsequently put on ice.

May insisted on Friday that she would be “holding talks in coming days about how to achieve further assurances that the UK parliament needs in order to be able to approve the deal.”

But European council president Donald Tusk said afterwards: “I have no mandate to organise any further negotiations.”

And the chief spokesperson for the European commission, which has been leading negotiations, confirmed on Monday that “no further meetings with the UK are foreseen.”

“The deal on the table is the best and only deal possible,” he stressed. “We will not reopen it. It will not be renegotiated.”

Spelling out the extent of the stalemate, one EU official told Yahoo Finance UK: “I don’t know what we’d be talking about if there was a meeting.”