EU's Jean-Claude Juncker rebuffs UK's plan to change Brexit deal

03 February, 2019, 21:01 | Author: Mary Valdez
  • John Bercow the Speaker of the House of Commons

Chief executive Colm Shannon said: "The Prime Minister told us that the withdrawal agreement and the backstop were the only ways to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland".

Her spokesman said May had no immediate plans to restart negotiations, or travel to Brussels, partly because Downing Street's strategy continues to be to hope that European Union leaders will reflect on her call to reopen the withdrawal agreement to remove the backstop, which the European Union says is integral to a deal.

Juncker told European Union lawmakers that both sides had already discussed the UK's demands to seek alternative arrangements to the Irish backstop, a provision to try to keep an open border between Ireland and the United Kingdom province of Northern Ireland.

Later in the session, Nigel Dodds, leader of the Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party at Westminster, described remarks by the Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney on the UK's approach to Brexit as "highly reckless and extremely dangerous".

"We know from yesterday's debate that the House of Commons is against many things", Juncker said.

Police and military at a border checkpoint in Ireland in 1974.

Downing Street revealed the prime minister had spoken to her Spanish, French, German and Irish counterparts over the Christmas break, as well as Mr Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk.

Currency traders also took that view as sterling traded around $US1.307, more than a cent down from the level reached before MPs voted.

As the U.K. will leave the bloc, the border between Northern Ireland - a U.K. territory - and the Republic of Ireland will remain the only land border between the U.K. and the EU.

"Our position is clear: the Withdrawal Agreement is the best and only solution for an orderly exit".

But May says she needs more - a legally binding change.

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In the throes of the Tories' chaotic Brexit push, Theresa May insisted today that a crash-out is not inevitable, even with her party unable to come to a consensus on any alternative.

But a British MEP, Ashley Fox of May's Conservatives, warned that after Tuesday's vote the backstop was more of a threat than an insurance policy.

It is not clear, however, if this amendment will be fully backed by the Labour leadership or command the support of the Commons.

"The backstop will create a hard border, not prevent one", he said, arguing that British lawmakers would never accept the clause and so it would lead to a no deal Brexit and renewed border controls.

"Jeremy made the case for our alternative plan", a Labour spokesperson said, adding that the tone had been "serious and engaged" and that the two had agreed to meet again.

The prime minister met several union leaders last week, including Len McCluskey, the Unite general secretary who is a key supporter of Jeremy Corbyn; the Unison leader, Dave Prentis; and Frances O'Grady, who heads the TUC.

He accused May of "running down the clock" to a no-deal Brexit, risking lorries backing up near British ports, cancer patients left without vital medicine and price rises in the shops. So far, the government has said only that parliament would be able to vote on whether such improvements should be matched.

After the meeting, Mrs May tweeted: "The only way to avoid No Deal is to vote for a deal".

Asked if Labour would support or table a motion to try and extend Article 50, which would delay the date of Brexit, Mr Corbyn said: "That is a question for 13 February". It took two years to put that negotiated withdrawal agreement together.

The EU and Ireland in separate statements said the deal, which was rejected by MPs in the House of Commons on January 25, was agreed around the red lines of British government and no adjustment will be possible.

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