A no-deal Brexit could still hit on 1 January even if a trade agreement is signed before the New Year, Michel Barnier has told MEPs.
The EU’s chief negotiator said in a private meeting in Monday morning that there could be a short period of no-deal while the accord was applied, according to an EU official present.
Mr Barnier also reportedly told ambassadors from EU member states the same thing in a separate meeting.
While the EU and UK have both made preparations to apply a trade deal on a “provisional” basis, it is understood that this process might still not be fast enough to avoid a no-deal if talks go up to Christmas and beyond.
Under this scenario, contingency measures would have to be applied while the legal text was “scrubbed” to make it ready for provisional applications.
Provisional application of a text requires translation into 23 languages, an agreed legal basis, and decisions by the European Council – which all take time.
The full ratification process for the deal, involving approval by the European Council and parliament, and potentially national parliaments, would take place after provisional ratification has been achieved early in the New Year.
National parliaments from the 27 EU member states would only have to vote on the deal if it covered areas not already delegated to the EU. The European Commission says it believes this will not be necessary, but officials at the European Council, which represents member states, sound less sure.
In that event, the parliament of a member state, or even a region, could veto the deal. The Belgian region of Wallonia famously held up ratification of the EU-Canada trade deal CETA in October 2016.