EU chief: The risk of a no-deal Brexit 'remains very real'

  • European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker listens Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019 in Strasbourg, eastern France, as members of the European Parliament discuss the current state of play of the UK's withdrawal from the EU.

    European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker listens Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019 in Strasbourg, eastern France, as members of the European Parliament discuss the current state of play of the UK's withdrawal from the EU. Associated Press

  • Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, left middle row, and other Parliament Members vote a resolution for the UK withdrawal from the EU, Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019 in Strasbourg. Members of the European Parliament discuss the current state of play of the UK's withdrawal from the EU.

    Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, left middle row, and other Parliament Members vote a resolution for the UK withdrawal from the EU, Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019 in Strasbourg. Members of the European Parliament discuss the current state of play of the UK's withdrawal from the EU. Associated Press

  • European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier delivers his speech Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019 in Strasbourg, eastern France. The risk of Britain leaving the European Union without a divorce deal remains "very real," European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker declared as EU lawmakers debated the ramifications of a no-deal Brexit.

    European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier delivers his speech Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019 in Strasbourg, eastern France. The risk of Britain leaving the European Union without a divorce deal remains "very real," European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker declared as EU lawmakers debated the ramifications of a no-deal Brexit. Associated Press

  • European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, left, speaks whith European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019 at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France. The risk of Britain leaving the European Union without a divorce deal remains "very real," European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker declared as EU lawmakers debated the ramifications of a no-deal Brexit.

    European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, left, speaks whith European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019 at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France. The risk of Britain leaving the European Union without a divorce deal remains "very real," European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker declared as EU lawmakers debated the ramifications of a no-deal Brexit. Associated Press

  • Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, left, shakes hands with European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier while European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker leans forward Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019 in Strasbourg. Members of the European Parliament discuss the current state of play of the UK's withdrawal from the EU.

    Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, left, shakes hands with European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier while European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker leans forward Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019 in Strasbourg. Members of the European Parliament discuss the current state of play of the UK's withdrawal from the EU. Associated Press

  • European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker delivers his speech Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019 in Strasbourg, eastern France, as members of the European Parliament discuss the current state of play of the UK's withdrawal from the EU.

    European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker delivers his speech Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019 in Strasbourg, eastern France, as members of the European Parliament discuss the current state of play of the UK's withdrawal from the EU. Associated Press

  • Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage addresses Parliament Members during a session at the European Parliament Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019 in Strasbourg, eastern France. The risk of Britain leaving the European Union without a divorce deal remains "very real," European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker declared Wednesday as EU lawmakers debated the ramifications of a no-deal Brexit.

    Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage addresses Parliament Members during a session at the European Parliament Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019 in Strasbourg, eastern France. The risk of Britain leaving the European Union without a divorce deal remains "very real," European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker declared Wednesday as EU lawmakers debated the ramifications of a no-deal Brexit. Associated Press

  • European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker delivers his speech Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019 in Strasbourg, eastern France, as members of the European Parliament discuss the current state of play of the UK's withdrawal from the EU.

    European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker delivers his speech Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019 in Strasbourg, eastern France, as members of the European Parliament discuss the current state of play of the UK's withdrawal from the EU. Associated Press

  • European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker delivers his speech Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019 in Strasbourg, eastern France. Members of the European Parliament discuss the current state of play of the UK's withdrawal from the EU.

    European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker delivers his speech Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019 in Strasbourg, eastern France. Members of the European Parliament discuss the current state of play of the UK's withdrawal from the EU. Associated Press

  • Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, left, shakes hands to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker while European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, right, looks on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019 in Strasbourg. Members of the European Parliament discuss the current state of play of the UK's withdrawal from the EU.

    Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, left, shakes hands to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker while European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, right, looks on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019 in Strasbourg. Members of the European Parliament discuss the current state of play of the UK's withdrawal from the EU. Associated Press

  • An employee of Eurotunnel checks a British truck on its way to France during a day of test in case of no deal Brexit at the entrance of the Channel tunnel in Folkestone, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said after a meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker that "there is a good chance" of a Brexit deal with the European Union. (Denis Charlet, Pool via AP)

    An employee of Eurotunnel checks a British truck on its way to France during a day of test in case of no deal Brexit at the entrance of the Channel tunnel in Folkestone, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said after a meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker that "there is a good chance" of a Brexit deal with the European Union. (Denis Charlet, Pool via AP) Associated Press

  • A truck on its way to France waits to be checked by employees of Eurotunnel during a day of test in case of no deal Brexit at the entrance of the Channel tunnel in Folkestone, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said after a meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker that "there is a good chance" of a Brexit deal with the European Union. (Denis Charlet, Pool via AP)

    A truck on its way to France waits to be checked by employees of Eurotunnel during a day of test in case of no deal Brexit at the entrance of the Channel tunnel in Folkestone, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said after a meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker that "there is a good chance" of a Brexit deal with the European Union. (Denis Charlet, Pool via AP) Associated Press

  • Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, attends a news conference at an event of the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019.

    Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, attends a news conference at an event of the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019. Associated Press

  • Ant-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller arrives at the Supreme Court in London, Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019. The Supreme Court is set to decide whether Prime Minister Boris Johnson broke the law when he suspended Parliament on Sept. 9, sending lawmakers home until Oct. 14 - just over two weeks before the U.K. is due to leave the European Union.

    Ant-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller arrives at the Supreme Court in London, Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019. The Supreme Court is set to decide whether Prime Minister Boris Johnson broke the law when he suspended Parliament on Sept. 9, sending lawmakers home until Oct. 14 - just over two weeks before the U.K. is due to leave the European Union. Associated Press

  • An Anti- Brexit demonstrator protests outside The Supreme Court in London, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019. The Supreme Court is set to decide whether Prime Minister Boris Johnson broke the law when he suspended Parliament on Sept. 9, sending lawmakers home until Oct. 14 - just over two weeks before the U.K. is due to leave the European Union.

    An Anti- Brexit demonstrator protests outside The Supreme Court in London, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019. The Supreme Court is set to decide whether Prime Minister Boris Johnson broke the law when he suspended Parliament on Sept. 9, sending lawmakers home until Oct. 14 - just over two weeks before the U.K. is due to leave the European Union. Associated Press

  • An employee of Eurotunnel and his dog check a truck on its way to Great Britain during a day of test in case of no deal Brexit, at the exit of the Channel tunnel in Calais, northern France, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said after a meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker that "there is a good chance" of a Brexit deal with the European Union. (Denis Charlet, Pool via AP)

    An employee of Eurotunnel and his dog check a truck on its way to Great Britain during a day of test in case of no deal Brexit, at the exit of the Channel tunnel in Calais, northern France, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said after a meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker that "there is a good chance" of a Brexit deal with the European Union. (Denis Charlet, Pool via AP) Associated Press

 
 
Posted9/18/2019 7:00 AM

STRASBOURG, France -- The risk of Britain leaving the European Union without a divorce deal remains "very real," European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker declared Wednesday as EU lawmakers debated the ramifications of a no-deal Brexit.

Speaking at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, Juncker, who met with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday, said a no-deal Brexit "might be the choice of the U.K., but it will never be ours."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

After the debate, the European Parliament is set to adopt a resolution laying out its concerns about Britain's impending departure from the 28-nation bloc on Oct. 31. Johnson has been adamant the U.K. will leave the EU on that date with or without a withdrawal agreement.

The main sticking point over a Brexit deal is the Irish border backstop, which would require Britain to respect EU trade and customs rules in order to avoid a hard border between EU member Ireland and the U.K.'s Northern Ireland until a better solution is found.

"I have no sentimental attachment to the backstop," Juncker said, adding, however, that he remains attached to the purpose it serves, which is not to create border structures that could be detrimental to peace in Northern Ireland.

"That is why I called on British prime minister to come forward with concrete proposals, operational and in writing on all alternatives that would allow us to reach these objectives," Juncker said.

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EU leaders have made clear that any amendment to the current proposed divorce deal should preserve the bloc's single market and uphold the Good Friday peace agreement that ended decades of conflict in Northern Ireland.

Despite his declaration that Britain will leave on Oct. 31 "do or die," Johnson insists he can strike a revised divorce deal with the bloc in time for an orderly departure. European leaders are skeptical of that declaration.

"I asked the British prime minister to specify the alternative arrangements that he could envisage," Juncker said. "As long as such proposals are not made, I cannot tell you - while looking you straight in the eye - that progress is being made."

The Brexit agreement made with the EU by Johnson's predecessor, Theresa May, was rejected three times by Britain's Parliament, prompting May to resign and the fiercely pro-Brexit Johnson to come to power in July.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Spelling out the need for the backstop, EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier warned that even if Britain leaves without any agreement at all, several major problems will still have to be resolved, including the future of citizens hit by Brexit, peace in Northern Ireland and the protection of the EU's single market and the Irish economy.

"None of these questions disappears," Barnier said Wednesday, insisting that the challenges must not be underestimated. "We need legally operative solutions in the withdrawal agreement to respond precisely to each problem - to address each risk - that Brexit creates."

"Some three years after the British referendum, it's not a question of pretending to negotiate. It's our responsibility to continue this process with determination and sincerity," Barnier told the European lawmakers.

In London, Britain's Supreme Court resumed its hearing to determine whether Johnson's decision to suspend Parliament was illegal. Judges must determine if Johnson overstepped his authority by suspending Parliament for a five-week period during the run-up to the Brexit deadline.

The government's opponents argue that Johnson illegally shut down Parliament just weeks before the scheduled Brexit date for the "improper purpose" of dodging lawmakers' legitimate scrutiny of his Brexit plans. They also say Johnson misled Queen Elizabeth II, whose approval was needed for the shutdown.

Speaking in Strasbourg, the European Parliament's top Brexit official attacked Johnson's decision to prorogue Parliament. Noting that Eurosceptic politicians often criticize the EU for being undemocratic, Guy Verhofstadt said EU leaders "can do a lot of things, but at least they cannot close the doors of our house. That is not possible."

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Samuel Petrequin reported from Brussels. Lorne Cooke in Brussels and Jill Lawless in London contributed.

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Follow AP's full coverage of Brexit and British politics at: https://www.apnews.com/Brexit

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