February 21, 2019 / 1:35 PM / 3 months ago

Risk of no-deal Brexit has risen - EU's Timmermans

European Commission first Vice-President Frans Timmermans delivers a speech during a debate on BREXIT after the vote on british Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal, at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, January 16, 2019. Right is European Union's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The risk of Britain crashing out of the European Union on March 29 without a deal to ease Brexit has increased this month, the deputy head of the European Commission said on Thursday.

Asked during a conference in Brussels if Britain would leave on the date scheduled, First Vice President Frans Timmermans said his fear in the last couple of weeks had increased that “they might crash out even if they don’t want to”.

“The risk of leaving without a deal has increased,” he added.

Timmermans compared efforts by some British lawmakers to try to prevent Prime Minister Theresa May taking Britain out of the EU without a deal to the apocryphal tale of England’s Danish King Canute who ordered the tide to stop but failed. Unless Britons can rally behind an alternative, Brexit is the default, he said.

He said the EU was willing to be flexible in amending the deal May agreed in November to get it ratified but he urged pro-Brexit lawmakers to end the “pipe dream” of avoiding a hard border in Ireland while pursuing different EU and UK economic rules and stressed that Brussels would not “throw Ireland under the bus” in defending the interests of a fellow EU member.

Reporting by Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Robin Pomeroy and Toby Chopra

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