Finland’s foreign minister warns against no-deal Brexit

Finland assumes presidency of the Council of the European Union on July 1 Credit: Kirsty O’Connor/PA

Finland’s foreign minister has said a no-deal Brexit would be “very harmful” for both the UK and European economies.

Pekka Haavisto said he hoped the Withdrawal Agreement brokered by Theresa May will be approved before the leave date of October 31 as it would make “no sense” to reopen negotiations.

The minister spoke as Finland prepares to assume the six-month presidency of the Council of the European Union on Monday.

As he campaigns to succeed Mrs May, Boris Johnston has pledged to take the UK out of the EU by the end of October “do or die”.

Mr Haavisto told PA: “We hope that the draft agreement between the EU and the UK can be enforced to guarantee remaining economic conduct between the UK and the EU.

“We can also see the risk of this no-deal Brexit, which of course would be very, very harmful if there is no respect of the Withdrawal Agreement – that would be harmful both for the UK economy and the European economy.”

Asked about the likelihood of a renegotiation of the agreement under a new prime minister, he said:  “It was a long process and agreed by both parties and I think it would not make sense to reopen it again.

“I cannot see anything that has changed since it was negotiated.

“Of course we understand that internal politics in the UK is now taking time, with the forming of the new government and so forth, but we hope that the Withdrawal Agreement that was negotiated can be enforced.”

Mr Haavisto, a member of Finland’s Green League, said he was keen to see who will be elected the next leader of the Conservative Party, but did not comment on any preferred candidate.

Asked if an independent Scotland would be assured EU membership, he said “it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to take a stand on that”.

The Council of the European Union negotiates and adopts EU laws, coordinates policy and adopts the EU budget.

Finland’s presidency, taking over from Romania, will see a focus on EU enlargement, social cohesion and tackling climate change.

Mr Haavisto said: “We are still hopeful that we can reach a common position on the climate issue in the EU and have really ambitious reduction goals.

“I think we have already made a good way towards a common understanding, but some work is still to be done.

“At the same time we are talking about the circular economy and the new economic prospects that high environmental standards and combating climate change would give to Europe, including Finland.

“We have already seen a big change, at least in our country, in how ambitious and motivated our companies are about the climate issue and climate goals.

“It’s not being seen so much as a burden, but more as a possibility of developing new technologies.”