Tuesday

22nd Jan 2019

No more Brexit talks, despite May's pleas

EU leaders said on Friday (14 December) at their meeting in Brussels that it was up to the UK to decide how to proceed with Brexit.

They repeated there could be no renegotiation of the Brexit deal agreed in November after British prime minister Theresa May had asked for further Brexit assurances on Thursday.

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The EU-27 adopted a political statement on Thursday evening to say the EU does not want to trap the UK in a so-called 'backstop' - a plan to keep the UK in the EU customs union until they find a way to avoid a hard border in Ireland.

German chancellor Angela Merkel said the EU saw the backstop as an insurance policy, and that the aim was for both the UK and EU to do well in a future trade deal.

"Now we await Ms May's response," said Merkel, one of several the leaders who had asked May what she needed to get the Brexit deal through the London parliament.

Brexiteer MPs see the backstop as an EU attempt to tie the UK indefinitely to the bloc.

May told reporters after Friday's meeting that further clarification from the EU was still possible.

"There is work still to do. We will be holding talks in coming days about how to obtain the further assurances that the UK parliament needs in order to be able to approve the deal," she said.

However, no such preparations are under way on the EU side.

EU council chief Donald Tusk said he had no mandate to reopen Brexit talks with Britain.

"I have no mandate to organise any further negotiations. We have to exclude any further opening of the withdrawal agreement," Tusk said.

"But of course, we are staying here in Brussels and I'm always at the PM's disposal," he added.

Top EU officials were keen to offer personal support for May after some press reports spoke of her "humiliation" in Brussels.

"We have to bring down the temperature," European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said.

Earlier in the day, Juncker had been caught on camera in a heated conversation with May.

He told press he did not mean to offend May and that his comment, which described the UK position as "nebulous", had referred to the broader state of affairs in the UK and to not May's presentation.

"I have the highest respect for the British prime minister," Juncker said.

The commission chief said the EU was ready to open talks on a future trade deal with Britain "the second after" the withdrawal agreement was approved in the UK and EU parliaments, in order to avoid having to implement the backstop.

Tusk also offered support for May.

"We have treated prime minister May with the outmost respect, all of us. We really appreciate the efforts to ratify our common agreement," he said.

"We have treated PM May with much greater empathy and respect than some British members of parliament," he added.

EU-27 unimpressed by May, offer little on Brexit

British PM asked for a legally binding guarantee on the backstop and for it to end no matter what in 2021, but did not reveal a strategy on how to sell the Brexit deal to her parliament.

Battered May seeks Brexit 'assurances' from EU

Having just survived a leadership challenge 24 hours ago in London, Theresa May is back in Brussels for the EU summit in a hope of getting 'guarantees' from the EU on the Irish backstop. But could they be enough?

EU rules out Brexit renegotiation, again

EU officials have warned they will not reopen the UK withdrawal text no matter what happens on Britain's political scene. The EU summit is expected to give a statement on backstop, but no legal assurances.

EU rules out Brexit changes, but could help May

EU top officials and German chancellor Angela Merkel said the EU would not renegotiate the Brexit deal, but talks are underway to design a clarification that could help the British prime minister get her parliamentary majority.

Opinion

Brexit and the Queen Sacrifice

Sometimes in chess, a sacrifice brings victory. Theresa May should pay heed to the example of Slovakia's premier, Iveta Radicova, who sacrificed her job in order to get difficult euro bailout legislation through the Bratislava parliament.

Ireland may seek aid, as border issue stalls Brexit deal

With the Brexit deal awaiting a vote in the British parliament, Theresa May is seeking further assurances from EU leaders - and Irish minister talks of emergency aid for Dublin to deal with a no-deal scenario.

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