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Estonian ministers comment on UK House of Commons Brexit vote

Minister of Foreign Affairs Sven Mikser (SDE).
Minister of Foreign Affairs Sven Mikser (SDE). Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The House of Commons on Tuesday evening rejected Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal, humiliating her government in the process. As the British parliament is now getting ready for a vote of no confidence against Ms May, fear of a so-called hard Brexit increases also in Estonia.

Mikser: Vote regrettable, Estonia now preparing for possible scenarios

Minister of Foreign Affairs Sven Mikser (SDE) commented on Tuesday evening that the Commons' decision to reject Ms May's deal has increased the possibility that the United Kingdom is headed for a so-called hard Brexit, namely leaving the European Union without any deal at all.

"We as well as other member states are still convinced that the deal as negotiated by the EU and the UK is the best option, and that the UK's leaving without a deal would cause tremendous insecurity as well as enormous costs for both the UK as well as for the Union," Mr Mikser said.

Still, that the UK would leave without a deal in place shouldn't be seen as the only course of action left, Mr Mikser added, pointing to the huge potential cost to Britain as a side of the debate that will work against the likelihood of overly rash decisions.

Mr Mikser said that he is ready to brief the government on possible Brexit scenarios in its Thursday meeting, seeing as it is very important to prepare for every eventuality.

"If there is no exit deal, there won't be a transition period, and the United Kingdom turns into a third state on 30 March 2019. This also means that EU law will no longer apply in the UK, and that third-state legal provisions will enter into effect instead," Mr Mikser said.

The minister added that the aim at this point is to reduce the impact of Brexit on EU citizens wherever possible. "People shouldn't have to suffer because the politicians are incapable of solving the situation," Mr Mikser said.

Permanent representative: Rejected deal was best deal possible

Deputy Minister for EU Affairs Matti Maasikas said that the rejected deal was indeed all that could have been achieved in the recently held negotiations.

"It would have protected the interests of both sides, protected the rights of those who work, live and study on both sides, who do business. It would have included a transition period after 30 March as well," Mr Maasikas told ERR on Tuesday evening.

"Now of course there's some time left until 30 March, and whatever happens next is mainly in the hands of the British government," the deputy minister added.

Prime minister: Commons' rejection of Brexit deal "regrettable"

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas wrote on social media that the decision of the House of Commons to reject Ms May's deal is "regrettable" and not making the complicated situation any easier.

"The deal between the EU and the UK is the best possible option in the currently difficult situation, and the EU's point of view is that it isn't going to be reopened for negotiation," Mr Ratas said.

But like Mr Mikser, the prime minister doesn't think a hard Brexit to be very likely. "The lack of clarity and the costs to be expected with a no-deal Brexit are so great that we don't think this is very likely to happen," Mr Ratas said.

Still, according to the prime minister, Estonia as well as the other member states will continue to prepare for such a worst case scenario.

"It is in our interest to protect our citizens, and it is important that the transition be as smooth as possible. The cabinet will discuss the option of a hard Brexit this Thursday. There are Estonian laws as well that need to be changed in case of an exit without a deal, primarily in the area of citizens' rights," Mr Ratas said.

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Editor: Dario Cavegn

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