EU leaders unmoved by May's plea over Brexit deal

Clay Curtis
December 14, 2018

On December 10, she confirmed she would be cancelling a landmark parliamentary vote on her Brexit deal, originally scheduled for December 11, amid widespread opposition to its central tenets.

'So yes, I think it would be sensible and right if Europe also responded if Britain said "look we are prepared to think again".

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker made clear that he doesn't intend to stay in Brussels to oversee Brexit negotiations over Christmas.

"I don't expect an immediate breakthrough, but what I do hope is that we can start to work as quickly as possible on the assurances that are necessary", May said.

"If the backstop has an expiry date, if there is a unilateral exit clause, then it is not a backstop", said Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.

May was due to meet EU President Donald Tusk in Brussels for what he called "last-minute talks" before joining the other European leaders. "Indeed it is the only deal capable of getting through my Parliament".

Britain is due to exit the European Union on March 29, 2019, as a result of a 2016 referendum.

In the wake of the vote, she said the government had a "renewed mission to deliver the Brexit people voted for" and vowed to "assuage the concerns that members of parliament have" on the backstop by winning reassurances in Brussels on Thursday.

The proposed statement is to declare that any backstop "would only be in place for a short period and only as long as strictly necessary", European diplomats said.

But, while an early draft of the conclusions said the European Union "stands ready to examine whether any further assurances can be provided", this was removed from the final version.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel was also adamant the Withdrawal Agreement could not be changed.

But this would not be the legally binding promise, sought by Brexiteers, that the backstop would not be used to bind the United Kingdom into a customs union indefinitely.

"This is incredibly innocent language".

Mr Blair made a new speech setting out the case for a referendum today - urging Theresa May (pictured today in Brussels) to admit Parliament had "taken the initiative" and must not lead the process.

Brexit figurehead Nigel Farage tweeted that May "limps on to her next failure, the deal won't pass and the real crisis is close".

"Our UK friends need to say what they want, instead of asking us to say what we want", he said. The number declaring no confidence was far higher than anticipated: the European Research Group, the hardline Brexiteer grouping of MPs, had been briefing that eighty-four rebels were expected; in the end, a further thirty-three MPs secretly voted to oust the prime minister, a total of 37 percent of Conservative MPs.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar told reporters that many European Union leaders were concerned May was asking for concessions without being able to guarantee they would be enough to deliver the vote.

"Nobody is talking about and nobody is being asked to - by the British prime minister - to change the wording of the withdrawal agreement", Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney said in Dublin.

Most of her own MPs haven't bought it - the Democratic Unionist Party certainly haven't - but rebellious, centrist Labour MPs who cherish attacking the Corbyn project above all else could be won over by May's maneuvering.

May nevertheless put a courageous face on the apparent rebuff and set off back to London to restart plans to put the Brexit deal before parliament, just five days after she abandoned a scheduled vote in the face of mass opposition from her own MPs.

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