European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker arrives for an EU summit in Brussels, Friday, Dec. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, Pool)

EU leaders vow to press on with ‘no-deal’ Brexit plans

European Union leaders have offered Theresa May sympathy but no promises, as the British prime minister seeks a lifeline.

European Union leaders expressed deep doubts Friday that British Prime Minister Theresa May can live up to her side of their Brexit agreement and they vowed to step up preparations for a potentially-catastrophic “no-deal” scenario.

May cancelled a Brexit vote in the U.K. Parliament this week after it became clear the assembly would reject the deal she concluded with the EU last month. She travelled to Brussels in hope of wringing some concessions from her European partners that would help assuage doubts about the draft divorce agreement back in London.

But EU leaders rejected any attempt to re-negotiate their agreement, a 585-page legal text settling things like the divorce bill and the rights next year of Europeans living in Britain or Britons living in the EU, plus a document laying out their hopes for future relations, which isn’t legally binding. They did publish a short text with “assurances” about how the deal would work.

“Very objectively, the signals that we heard yesterday are not especially reassuring about the capacity in Britain to be able to honour the engagement that was undertaken,” Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel told reporters.

Expressing a “gigantic doubt” that May can get the deal through Parliament, Michel said: “we are going to be sure to prepare for all hypotheses, including the hypothesis of a no-deal.”

No country has ever left the 28-nation EU — the world’s biggest trading bloc — and the rules laying out that process are sketchy. Essentially, Brexit is being made up as the process advances. Court challenges have clarified some of the rules. This week, Europe’s top court ruled that Britain can change its mind about leaving should it want to. One thing is clear: Brexit will happen on March 29, although a transition period will help ease Britain out over almost two, and possibly up to four, years.

Read more: UK Prime Minister Theresa May wins party no-confidence vote, but troubles remain

Read more: UK leader seeks EU lifeline after surviving confidence vote

The prospect of a no-deal has shaken markets and the British pound, and created uncertainty for investors and businesses. Brexit involves Britain leaving around 750 international treaties drawn up over 40 years of membership. One of them is the EU’s aviation market. Without a deal, British planes won’t be able to land in Europe on March 30. Nor will European planes be able to land in the U.K.

May didn’t talk to reporters as she entered EU headquarters early Friday for talks with French President Emmanuel Macron, after shuttling around Europe earlier this week seeking support.

Should she make clear her government’s needs from the EU, and her plan to persuade Parliament to adopt the agreement in January, EU leaders could convene against next month.

Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said that “if there is a need we can always convene.”

Plenkovic said the statement EU leaders released overnight “is a solid signal, first of all to the prime minister, but also to the U.K. Parliament.”

Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel appealed to British MPs to keep the interests of their citizens in mind.

“For internal political reasons some people try to gamble on the relations between the EU and the U.K. for the future. It’s bad. This is the best possible deal,” Bettel said. “They should think about the interests of their voters and people in their country.”

In Britain, Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington, a senior May ally, insisted Thursday’s talks in Brussels had been “a welcome first step,” noting that the EU had said it wanted a “speedy U.K. trade deal” after Brexit.

But opponents of the government said the meeting showed that May’s deal would never get the support of Parliament.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted that May “has tried, credit to her for that, but, as expected, the EU is not open to renegotiation. It’s time to stop this pretense, bring the vote to Parliament and then, when the deal is rejected, seek to bring majority behind a second EU vote. Anything else now is just wasting time.”

___

AP writers Raf Casert and Angela Charlton in Brussels and Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed.

Lorne Cook And Jill Lawless, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Club Championships and Duffers doled out during busy Prince Rupert golf weekend

Aina Pettersen repeats as women’s Duffers champ, while men’s tournaments go down to the wire

Food drive needs donations from Prince Rupert and Port Edward this weekend

With 30 families volunteering this Thanksgiving, the food drive can cover both municipalities

The Northern View Cannery Road Race: Photos and video

The Northern View’s 2019 Cannery Road Race draws hundreds of runners from Prince Rupert to Terrace

Holkestad’s hold off the competition at Seniors’ Open

Husband and wife duo remain top of the table at Prince Rupert Golf Course

B.C. offers early retirement, training fund for forest workers

Communities eligible for $100,000 for permanent closures

STORY, PHOTOS, VIDEO: Terry Fox’s spirit alive and well in Prince Rupert

Town shows up again in numbers— physically and financially — to push for a cure

B.C. party bus company to be monitored after 40 intoxicated teens found onboard

Police received tip teens and young adults were drinking on party buses and limousines in Surrey

Rick Mercer calls out Conservative candidate in B.C. for fake meme

‘Not true. All fake. Please Stop,’ tweeted Rick Mercer in response

Bear killed in Kimberley after chasing girl, wreaking havoc on town

This particular brown-coloured bear has been the subject of many calls this summer; very food habituated, CO says

Police investigate after intoxicated teens clash with security at B.C. fair

18-year-old woman arrested and RCMP looking at possible assault in Victoria-area fall fair incident

Boy overdosed on illicit anti-anxiety drug found on Kelowna classroom floor, RCMP say

Noah Mills, 8, ingested a pink powdery substance off his Kelowna classroom floor

BC SPCA investigating after three dogs found shot dead in Prince George ditch

The three adult dogs appeared to be well cared for before being found with gunshot wounds, BC SPCA says

Psychiatric assessment ordered for man accused in Salmon Arm church shooting

Lawyer tells court accused was diagnosed with psychosis hours after his arrest

Surrey mom allegedly paid $400,000 for son in U.S. college bribery scam

Xiaoning Sui, 48, was arrested in Spain on Monday night

Most Read