EU Brexit negotiator: May’s trade deal pledge ‘impossible’

London, Jan 28 (IANS) The European Parliaments chief Brexit negotiator rubbished British Prime Minister Theresa Mays pledge to deliver a new EU trade deal by 2019 as “impossible”, a media report said.

Guy Verhofstadt also suggested the British people voted to leave the EU because of a Little Englander mentality. Yet he held out the prospect that Britain could choose to rejoin the bloc one day, saying, “That is always possible”, the Independent reported on Friday.

In her Brexit speech earlier in January, the Prime Minister threatened to crash out of the EU with “no deal” if other leaders refused her demands.

However, a day later, May told MPs that she would “deliver” an agreement by Brexit, to avoid inflicting punishing World Trade Organisation tariffs on businesses.

“That’s what I’m committed to – and that’s what this Government is going to deliver,” she said, raising the stakes for the negotiations to come.

But Verhofstadt, a senior Member of European Parliament and former Belgian Prime Minister, dismissed the prospect, in an interview with Al Jazeera English on Friday. “That’s technically impossible,” he said, referring to the suggested two-year timeline.

EU leaders have insisted Britain must first agree to a suggested 50 billion pounds ($62 billion approx) “divorce bill” – a payment for outstanding liabilities – under the terms of the Article 50 exit clause.

May has threatened to make “other arrangements” if she fails to strike a fresh trade deal before Brexit – widely interpreted as a threat to slash taxes and regulations, to attract investment, said the report.

Verhofstadt also sought to emphasise that the rest of the EU would not be looking to punish Britain in the negotiations.

However, “you can never have outside the European Union a better status than as member of the European Union”, he said.