The risk of a “disorderly” Brexit has never been higher, the EU’s chief negotiator has said, following MPs’ second rejection of Theresa May’s deal.
Michel Barnier said the EU “cannot go any further” in trying to persuade MPs to back the agreed terms of exit and the UK had to break the impasse.
He questioned what the purpose would be of extending the talks beyond 29 March.
MPs will vote at 19.00 GMT on whether to block the UK from leaving the EU without an agreement later this month.
Wednesday’s vote only applies to the 29 March deadline and would not rule out the prospect of a no-deal exit later this year, if Parliament is ultimately unable to agree a way forward.
Ahead of the no-deal Commons vote, the government announced that most imports into the UK would not attract a tariff in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
As the government considers its next move after Mrs May deal was defeated by 149 votes, Mr Barnier said it was time for the UK to take “responsibility” for its actions.
“Again the House of Commons says what it doesn’t want,” he told the European Parliament. “Now this impasse can only be solved in the UK.
“The risk of no-deal has never been higher. That is the risk of an exit….in a disorderly fashion.”
The EU, he suggested, had gone “as far as it possibly can” to satisfy MPs’ concerns over the agreement, particularly in relation to the backstop, an insurance policy to stop a hard border on the island of Ireland.
“If the UK still wants to leave the EU in an orderly manner, this treaty is, and will remain, the only treaty possible,” he said.
What are MPs voting on later?
MPs will vote on a government motion, which says the Commons “declines to approve leaving the European Union without a withdrawal agreement and a framework on the future relationship on 29 March”.
Mrs May, who is currently chairing a cabinet meeting, has said Tory MPs will get a free vote.
That means ministers and MPs can make their own mind up rather than following the orders of party managers – an unusual move for a vote on a major policy.
The no-deal debate will begin after Prime Minister’s Questions and Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Spring Statement economic update.
Leaving the EU in 16 days’ time remains the UK’s default position under the law, unless talks are extended.
If a no-deal exit is rejected, MPs will vote on Thursday on delaying Brexit by extending Article 50 – the legal mechanism that takes the UK out of the EU.
The EU has said it would need “a credible justification” before agreeing to any extension. Such a move would have to be agreed by every member state.
What happened last night?
The PM had made a last-minute plea to MPs to back her deal after she had secured legal assurances on the Irish backstop from the EU during late-night talks in Strasbourg on Monday.
But although she managed to convince about 40 Tory MPs to change their mind, it was not nearly enough to overturn the historic 230 vote defeat she suffered on the same deal in January.