‘Not open for renegotiation’: EU stands by Brexit deal, offers few extra reassurances to May

‘Not open for renegotiation’: EU stands by Brexit deal, offers few extra reassurances to May
British Prime Minister Theresa May has failed to secure any tangible “reassurances” from Brussels that she can take back to her Parliament, with EU leaders refusing to renegotiate the divorce agreement with the UK.

Before Brussels delivered its verdict, May told EU leaders that the Brexit deal is “at risk” if British lawmakers' concerns are not addressed, and urged her European counterparts to “change the perception” of the controversial Irish border backstop clause.

Yet she has received only vague assurances that the backstop, if triggered, would only be a temporary measure – with no particular timeframe – and that the bloc will “work speedily” and do its best to negotiate, in time, a new trade agreement.

The EU has made clear that the backstop was their “insurance policy” to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland and to preserve the “integrity” of the single market. “It is the Union’s firm determination to work speedily on a subsequent agreement that establishes by 31 December 2020 alternative arrangements, so that the backstop will not need to be triggered,” the final communiqué of Thursday's meeting reads.

While May was trying to woo EU leaders to give her something tangible she could take back to the House of Commons, after her survival of the confidence vote over her Brexit leadership from the Conservatives this week, she was met by a stonewall response.

“I don’t see we [how] can change the withdrawal agreement,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel was quoted as saying, echoing French leader Emmanuel Macron, who refused to “reopen a legal agreement.”

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The ball is now in Britain’s court, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency at the moment, said, as leaders of the bloc refused to negotiate the terms of the agreement and said they intend to ratify it as is.

With four months left before the UK leaves the Union, May faces deadlock in Parliament over the deal she signed with the EU last month. Fearing that MPs would reject it and leave the country with a chaotic no-deal Brexit, she felt compelled to withdraw the 585-page document from a vote in the Parliament this week and then, to garner more support, promised to get additional reassurances from Brussels. She has, however, pledged to hold this parliamentary vote as soon as possible in January, and definitely before January 21.

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