Why the European Union is wargaming for a no-deal Brexit

Sources say leaders in Brussels believe missing the December deadline need not signal end to negotiations

Emmanuel Macron addresses journalists wearing a black face mask/
(Image credit: Daniel Cole/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

European Union nations have begun “wargaming” plans for a no-deal Brexit that could see the resumption of talks next year if the December deadline is missed, according to insiders.

Ahead of crunch talks in Brussels this week, a senior EU diplomat told The Telegraph that although there would be a “period of chaos” if no agreement is struck, “there is nothing that says that just because there is a no deal there can never be trade negotiations again”.

Other sources also insist that eventually “UK-EU trade negotiations would have to resume with the European Commission, which handles negotiations on behalf of the bloc, after no deal on 1 January”, says the newspaper. But the insiders warn that London would continue to face the same demands and would have lost any goodwill and leverage.

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Not everyone is convinced that the talks could resume, however. A separate EU source reportedly said that there would be no resumption of trade negotiations in the aftermath of no-deal and that Britain would be forced to strike bilateral agreements with individual member countries.

Meanwhile, EU leaders including France’s President Emmanuel Macron are expected to insist on stringent enforcement rules for any UK trade deal, amid widespread concerns that Boris Johnson’s decision to supersede the Brexit treaty has shown that London cannot be trusted.

In a sign of the erosion of trust that Johnson’s move caused, the bloc wants any agreement to be backed by the right for Brussels to take “rapid retaliatory action” if Britain were to breach its commitments, the Financial Times reports.

The EU’s chief negotiator told a meeting of European ambassadors last week that any hint of compromise, especially on fishing rights, would weaken the bloc’s position. Michel Barnier is encouraging European leaders to resist Johnson’s efforts to turn this week’s summit, on Thursday and Friday, into a de-facto negotiating deadline.

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Chas Newkey-Burden has been part of The Week Digital team for more than a decade and a journalist for 25 years, starting out on the irreverent football weekly 90 Minutes, before moving to lifestyle magazines Loaded and Attitude. He was a columnist for The Big Issue and landed a world exclusive with David Beckham that became the weekly magazine’s bestselling issue. He now writes regularly for The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Independent, Metro, FourFourTwo and the i new site. He is also the author of a number of non-fiction books.