As the deadline for triggering Article 50 approaches, reports indicate European leaders want to make sure the United Kingdom feels the pain caused by a withdrawal from the European Union.
Germany said London can forget about concessions while Denmark said the process could drag out for 15 years, and Ireland pushed for an exit fee amid efforts to entice London banks to move across the Irish Sea.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has pledged to build the “independent, self-governing global Britain the British have called for.”
May is reported ready to trigger the exit process as soon as Tuesday if a bill clears Parliament on Monday.
But Bloomberg obtained a memo dated Thursday circulating within the German government, calling for EU unity and making distinctions for inside and outside the bloc.
“Brexit will mean less cooperation and economic integration compared to EU membership,” the memo says.
“Brexit thus becomes a step backward which will have an effect on Britain.”
The UK had been sending a steady stream of representatives to Germany in hopes of making Berlin an ally in the negotiations. The hard line may mean there will be no deal in place when Britain finally leaves the bloc.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who was one of the leaders of the Brexit movement, said it’s fine with him if there’s no deal, predicting the country’s economy would thrive ayway.
Johnson is banking on the EU wanting to come to some sort of agreement.
“Our partners and friends around the EU desperately want this thing to work. They don't want more misery, they don't want to fall out with the U.K.," he told ITV on Sunday, adding, "I don't think that the consequences of no deal are by any means as apocalyptic as some people like to protest, and actually what we have seen in the budget from Philip Hammond last week are preparations for Britain over the next few years."
International Trade Secretary Liam Fox agreed, telling the BBC lack of a deal “certainly … wouldn’t be the end of the world.”
Business leaders, however, warn lack of an agreement “would be a very bad thing.” Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry, said chemical firms, for example, could face 1,500 tariffs if no deal is in place.
Brexit Minister David Davis told the BBC that though the government wants a deal, it is preparing for the worst.
"The simple truth is we have been planning for the contingency - all the various outcomes, all the possible outcomes of the negotiations," Davis said.
"One of the reasons we don't talk about the contingency plan too much is that we don't want people to think 'Oh, this is what we're trying to do.'"
The European Commission has said the full exit should be finalized before any new trading relationships are discussed despite London’s preference for parallel talks. May hopes to seal a fresh deal by 2019.
Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel told the Independent it’s possible the exit process will prove so arduous, the divorce might not happen at all.
“Maybe during the procedure of divorce they will say, ‘We love you that much that we are not able to conclude that divorce,’ “ he said.
U.K. voters decided to pull out of the European Union last June.