Juncker Warns of No-Deal Brexit ‘Chaos’ Before Johnson Meeting

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(Bloomberg) --

Outgoing European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the U.K. would risk “utter chaos” that will take years to fix if Prime Minister Boris Johnson proceeds with a threat to pull the nation out of the trade bloc without a deal in October.

Juncker, who’ll meet Johnson for talks Monday in Luxembourg, expressed pessimism in a weekend radio interview that the U.K. leader will offer fresh and viable proposals on the Irish “backstop” impasse.

“We don’t know what the British want exactly, precisely or in detail and we’re still waiting for alternative proposals,” Juncker told Germany’s Deutschlandfunk. “I hope we get them, but time’s running out.”

Alternative arrangements to the backstop proposed so far, such as drone-based transit controls, aren’t appropriate, he said.

The U.K. will discuss the “rough shape” of a deal in Luxembourg, Johnson said Friday. Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay followed up Sunday to report progress on the backstop following “detailed technical talks” with European Union counterparts.

Restating the EU’s red lines, Juncker said the trade bloc was unwilling to re-open the Brexit accord negotiated with Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May. Pitching the onus to secure a deal on time back to Johnson, Juncker said extending the Oct. 31 deadline needs a “justification with the outlook of an agreement.”

“To suspend the exit again simply on the basis of problems with the British parliament or because of this or that sensitivity doesn’t qualify as a justification,” said Juncker, who’ll hand the Commission’s reins to German Ursula von der Leyen in November.

British ‘Patriots’

Johnson is still doing everything he can to secure a divorce deal with the EU and ratify it in Parliament by the deadline, according to a senior official in Westminster.

Even so, he’ll tell Juncker that there’s just one month left to finalize the agreement, and he won’t ask for a delay if the negotiations are fruitless, the official said.

While many Britons are “positively disposed” to a no-deal Brexit, Juncker suggested it was citizens’ patriotic duty to oppose that scenario.

“Whoever loves his country -- and I take it that there are still patriots in Great Britain -- he wouldn’t want to wish such a fate on his country,” he said.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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