The UK will have to “face the consequences” if it opts to leave without a deal, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator has said.
Michel Barnier told BBC Panorama the thrice-rejected agreement negotiated by Theresa May was the “only way to leave the EU in an orderly manner”.
He also insisted Mrs May and her ministers “never” told him during Brexit talks she might opt for no deal.
Publicly, Mrs May has always insisted no deal is better than a bad deal.
Meanwhile, the Office for Budget Responsibility has said the UK will fall into recession next year if there is a no-deal Brexit.
The fiscal watchdog said economic growth would fall by 2% by the end of 2020 if it left the bloc without an agreement.
In his first UK broadcast interview – conducted in May before the start of the Conservative leadership contest – Mr Barnier was asked what would happen if the UK “just tore up the membership card” for the EU.
“The UK will have to face the consequences,” he replied.
Asked whether the UK had ever genuinely threatened to leave in such a way with no deal, Mr Barnier said: “I think that the UK side, which is well informed and competent and knows the way we work on the EU side, knew from the very beginning that we’ve never been impressed by such a threat.
“It’s not useful to use it.”