The European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said on January 17 that Brussels is open to a “more ambitious” deal than the one rejected by the British parliament. This is good news for British Prime Minister Theresa May who has called on other parties to table alternatives.

However, the risk that Britain will divorce the EU on March 29 without any deal remains.

“If they (Britain) tell us they want a more ambitious relationship, we are open,” Barnier told reporters alongside Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa during a visit to Lisbon.

As reported by the Reuters news agency, however, Barnier held out no hope that the agreement reached over the course of two years on the principles that May originally set out could be improved on.

As for May, she had expected, after Brexit, to negotiate a wide-ranging free trade agreement for goods with the EU as part of a fully independent British trade policy.

The main opposition party, Labour, wants Britain to be in a customs union with the EU, which would rule this out, and others want Britain stay even closer to the EU by staying in its single market, along the lines of Norway’s arrangement.

In a separate report, Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s international broadcaster, noted that German parliament passed a new law preparing for the Brexit transition. was passed unanimously by almost all political parties in the Bundestag — only the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) voted against the plan.

The purpose of the law, which would come into force when Britain formally leaves the EU, is to create clarity for people likely to be affected by Brexit, especially British nationals living in Germany and Germans living in the UK.

For instance, almost 120,000 British people registered in Germany, the measure means that UK citizens would still be able to apply for citizenship during the transitional phase, which is expected to last until the end of 2020, with the date of their applications taken into special consideration. After that, however, the obstacles to becoming German will be significantly greater.

According to German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, the government was “intensifying its plans for the case of an unregulated Brexit”.

“We will do everything in the next days and weeks to bring about Britain’s exit, not without a deal, but with a deal,” Maas said, adding that further negotiations remain possible. Nor did he rule out an extension of the March 29 deadline for Brexit.

As previously reported, Germany’s government has also published information in English on its websites that covers tax laws, the residency status of British citizens, transporting goods in and out of the United Kingdom, educational grants, and travel.

Meanwhile the news from France is the same. As reported by FRANCE 24, Paris has put in motion a contingency plan to deal with a possible “hard Brexit”. So said French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe on January 17. This includes €50m of investments to assist ports and airports.

“What’s certain is that the scenario of a no-deal Brexit is more and more likely. That’s why… I have decided to trigger this plan for a no-deal Brexit or a hard Brexit as it is sometimes called,” Philippe told reporters.