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25th Feb 2019

Dutch PM urges Theresa May to ‘wake up’ over ‘sleep walking’ into no deal Brexit

Marc Mayo

EU leaders are holding talks in Sharm El-Sheikh with the Brexit deadline just over a month away

Theresa May has been told to “wake up” and solve the deadlock in Brexit negotiations by Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte.

There remains less than five weeks for the European Union and UK government to find a withdrawal agreement that will pass through parliament in Westminster and be ratified by leaders in Brussels.

However, May has delayed the next vote on her deal to March 12.

The receding timeframe has led to many EU figures coming out to urge May to work harder to prevent a no deal Brexit. On Monday, Dutch prime minister Rutte described that prospect as “real”.

“We are sleep walking into no deal scenario,” he told the BBC during the EU-Arab summit in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.

“It’s unacceptable and your best friends have to warn you. Wake up. This is real. Come to a conclusion and close the deal.”

A number of senior MPs are advocating a vote to extend the Article 50 deadline to prevent no deal from occurring, but Rutte admitted there is pessimism among the EU as to what exactly that would achieve.

“It’s up to the UK,” he said on delaying Brexit. “If the UK asks for a delay, the EU will ask ‘what do you want with it?’

“We don’t want to go round in circles for the next couple of months. What will be achieved by it?”

However, Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was confident that no deal would not be the final outcome of negotiations, given his view that it would be a disaster for all parties.

“What’s evident to me is that absolutely nobody wants the United Kingdom to crash out without a deal,” he said on Monday. “It is a lose, lose, lose scenario for everyone.

“That gives me confidence, or a sense at least, that the UK will not crash out without a deal on March 29. We’ll either have a deal or have an extension.”