EU ratchets up pressure on UK with no-deal visa proposal

Daniel Boffey in Brussels
The European commission vice-president, Frans Timmermans, warned Britain: ‘We will do upon you what you do upon us.’ Photograph: François Lenoir/Reuters

The EU has ratcheted up the pressure on Theresa May by publishing a fresh batch of no-deal plans including the warning that it will only allow UK nationals to make short visa-free visits to EU destinations if the policy is reciprocated by the British government.

With the Brexit negotiations at their most intense, and Downing Street pushing to make make decisive progress within the next 24 hours to secure a November summit, the commission made public its emergency preparations.

They range from residency and visa-related issues to financial services, air transport, customs, the transfer of personal data, and climate policy.

Among the contingency plans, is a proposal to allow British nationals to enjoy visa-free visits for up to 90 days within a 180-day period, but only if the UK government offers the same terms to EU nationals.

“This proposal is entirely conditional upon the UK also granting reciprocal and non-discriminatory visa-free travel for all EU member states, in line with the principle of visa reciprocity,” a statement said.

Frans Timmermans, the vice-president of the European commission, warned: “We will do upon you what you do upon us.”

A statement issued by the commission said that even if a deal was struck and ratified before the UK leaves on 29 March 2019, there would be fundamental changes to the way businesses could operate in the new environment.

“While the European commission is working hard for a deal, and continues to put citizens first in the negotiations, the UK’s withdrawal will undoubtedly cause disruption – for example in business supply chains – whether or not there is a deal,” the commission said. “Contingency measures cannot remedy the full effects of this disruption.

“In the event of a no-deal scenario, these disruptions will be even more significant and the speed of preparations would have to increase significantly. Contingency measures in narrowly defined areas may, exceptionally, be needed in order to protect the interests and the integrity of the EU.”

No 10 has indicated that progress has been made in the Brexit talks over the last 24 hours, although there is not yet a final text that is ready to be put in front of senior ministers for approval.

The prime minister’s official spokesman told reporters at a morning briefing that “there are a small number of outstanding issues as the UK pushes for the best text that can be negotiated”.

Earlier the Cabinet Office minister, David Lidington, had said a draft deal might still be reached by Wednesday evening, but that such progress was “not at all definite”.

More details soon….