LONDON – Britain’s aim of forging a new deal with the European Union in two years may be unrealistic, and the government must set out the economic implications of failure, a powerful group of lawmakers said Tuesday.
Britain wants to strike a sweeping free-trade agreement with the bloc, but Prime Minister Theresa May says leaving without a deal would be better than accepting a bad settlement.
Parliament’s Exiting the EU Committee said that assertion is not based on evidence.
The committee said Tuesday that “the government should conduct a thorough assessment of the economic, legal and other implications of leaving the EU without a deal in place.”
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said failing to seal a deal would hurt both Britain and the bloc — but Britain would suffer more.
“My personal opinion is that the burden for the Brits is higher than for the Europeans,” he said after meeting British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in London.
Gabriel said he was optimistic the two sides could strike a good deal, though he cautioned that it would not bring Britain the same benefits as the EU membership it is relinquishing.
“No-one should be left with the impression that the advantages of membership of the European Union can be used by people who are not members of the European Union,” Gabriel said.
May triggered Article 50 of the EU’s key treaty last week, starting a two-year countdown to Brexit. U.K. officials hope that in that time they can work out divorce terms and agree on a new relationship between Britain and the 27-nation bloc.
In its report, the Exiting the EU Committee said “it is not yet evident” that the British government’s two-year timescale is realistic.
May said she believes details of “the future arrangements, the future relationship, [the] future partnership between us and the European Union” can be sealed within two years.