The EU wanted to ‘put Brexit on ice for five years’, a new programme has revealed.
David Lidington, Theresa May’s De Facto deputy, told BBC Panorama that a senior EU official made the secret offer to put Brexit on hold for five years and “see how things go” then talk about a "new deal for Europe" when the dust had settled.
Cabinet Office Minister Mr Lidington told the programme that the offer came from the European Commission's top official Martin Selmayr in 2018.
He said: "Martin sort of said, 'Look, why don't we have a deal whereby we just put all this on ice for five years?'
"Let's see how things go, let's get the UK involved with France and Germany, let's see how the dust settles and let's talk about whether we can come to a new deal for Europe.'"
Mr Selmayr told the same programme, ‘Britain's Brexit Crisis’, which is set to be broadcast at 9pm on Thursday, that the UK was unprepared to leave Europe without a deal.
He said: "We have seen what has been prepared on our side of the border for a hard Brexit. We don't see the same level of preparation on the other side of the border."
In the programme, Michel Barnier claimed that Theresa May and her ministers ‘never’ threatened a no-deal Brexit.
The EU's chief Brexit negotiator insisted the Withdrawal Agreement was the only way to leave in an "orderly manner" and said the UK would have to "face the consequences" if it crashed out.
In the Panorama interview, Mr Barnier was asked if Mrs May or her negotiators ever mentioned or threatened a no-deal exit.
He replied: "No, no, I never listened to such a sentence. Never."
He said he thought the UK knew the EU would not respond to threats of a no-deal.
"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."