No-deal Brexit will be Britain’s fault, says EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker

Failure to reach a Brexit deal would be the sole responsibility of the UK, the president of the European Commission has said.

Jean-Claude Juncker insisted he and the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier were doing all they could to secure an agreement because it would be a catastrophe for both Britain and Europe if there was no divorce settlement in place.

He also warned that negotiating a future trade deal would not be easy in the event of a no-deal.

Mr Juncker’s comments, made in an interview with a German newspaper, come as Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay and Mr Barnier meet in Brussels in the latest attempt to make progress towards an agreement.

Downing Street has acknowledged there are still “significant obstacles” to reaching an agreement ahead of the 31 October deadline but say “progress has been made”.

A key sticking point in the talks remains agreeing an alternative to the Irish backstop – an insurance policy to stop a hard border returning on the island of Ireland.

Mr Juncker has previously told Sky News that he was prepared to ditch the controversial contingency plan, but only on condition that “alternative arrangements [are put in place] allowing us and Britain to achieve the main objectives of the backstop.”

Speaking to the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper, Mr Juncker said: “Our chief negotiator Michel Barnier and I are doing everything possible to get an agreement.

“But if we don’t succeed in the end, the responsibility would lie exclusively on the British side.”

He added: “We will want to and need to seal a free trade agreement.

“But that won’t happen just like that, as some in Britain imagine.

“Some of the trade deals we sealed in my term of office took many years to reach.”

The 64-year-old, who spent nearly two decades as the prime minister of Luxembourg, became president of the commission five years ago.

His term finishes on 31 October, the same day that the United Kingdom is due to leave the EU.

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