HELSINKI, FINLAND – A no-deal Brexit looks likely, Finland's Prime Minister Antti Rinne told CNBC Friday, though he is still hopeful that both sides of the English Channel will have good relations going forward.
The U.K.'s departure from the European Union is a constant source of concern for European leaders as the exit date approaches without any clear agreement on future relations. In such a scenario, and without being granted further time beyond the October 31 deadline, there would be a no-deal Brexit – meaning trade would immediately be done with higher tariffs imposed by both sides.
When asked about the probability of a no-deal Brexit, Antti Rinne told CNBC: "I will say that now it seems that it's going to happen, and we need to accept that it's going to happen, but I hope that we can reach a situation where we can together, with British and EU27, to create a better world…"
The U.K. is the first member state to ask to leave the European Union – a political and economic group, which started more than six decades ago. It started the official departure process in March of 2017.
Boris Johnson, the U.K. Prime Minister, is due to meet Jean-Claude Juncker, the head of the EU's executive arm on Monday in Luxembourg to discuss Brexit over a "working lunch." It marks their first meeting since Johnson took office in August. Johnson has previously met the German and the French leaders at their respective capitals.
However, the EU's Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, has criticized the new U.K. government for not presenting concrete proposals.
"We will see in the coming weeks if the British are able to make concrete proposals in writing that are legally operational," Barnier told European lawmakers Thursday, according to the Guardian.
The U.K. government has made the point that it is against the Withdrawal Agreement – the document that the former Prime Minister, Theresa May, had negotiated with the other EU members. At the same time, Boris Johnson has said, on separate occasions, that the U.K. is ready for a no-deal Brexit and that he would "rather be dead in a ditch" than asking for an extension to the current departure date.
"I made very clear to (Prime Minister Boris Johnson) there is no possibility to get a new deal," Rinne said about a phone call with his U.K. counterpart conducted "some weeks ago."
When asked if he would be willing to grant another extension to the U.K. to sort out Brexit, Rinne said "it seems there is no interest to get more extension to this situation," provided that there is no new solution.
"I hope if (Johnson) is going to ask for more time it means that he has something to say. How we can solve the situation after this time? – that's a big question for us in all the EU27," he added.
Finland is currently holding the EU's rotating presidency – meaning that it has a key role in shaping the European agenda. Rinne told CNBC that he hopes climate and migration will be the biggest topics until the end of the year, but conceded "I think Brexit is going to be the biggest question."