German Minister of State for European Affairs Michael Roth, center, speaks with members of the delegation during a General Affairs Council meeting at the Europa building in Brussels, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

UK’s May lobbies EU leaders in fight to save Brexit deal

Top European Union officials ruled out Tuesday any renegotiation of the divorce agreement with Britain.

Top European Union officials on Tuesday ruled out any renegotiation of the divorce agreement with Britain, as Prime Minister Theresa May fought to save her Brexit deal by lobbying leaders in Europe’s capitals.

May began her quest over breakfast with Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte, a day after she abandoned a vote in the U.K. Parliament to secure support for the agreement thrashed out with the EU over more than a year. She acknowledged that the deal would be rejected in London “by a significant margin.”

Rutte betrayed little of their conversation, tweeting only that they had “a useful dialogue which saw us discuss the latest Brexit developments.”

But European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker warned that the agreement— almost 600 pages long, highly technical and legally binding — cannot be re-opened for negotiation at a summit of EU leaders on Thursday. He did say, however, that elements of the deal could still be clarified.

“There is no room whatsoever for renegotiation,” Juncker told EU lawmakers in Strasbourg, France, as he briefed them on the summit.

Juncker, who is set to meet May on Tuesday evening, reiterated that “the deal we have achieved is the best deal possible. It is the only deal possible.”

But he added that “if used intelligently, (there) is room enough to give further clarification and further interpretations without opening the withdrawal agreement.”

EU leaders have often supplemented agreements with political declarations that clarify their interpretation of elements of an accord or provide assurances about how parts of any deal might work.

In Brussels, Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen also said that EU countries might be willing to clarify parts of the deal.

“It is always a political option to clarify if that is needed, what is meant, what kind of underlining is needed,” Samuelsen told reporters.

Read more: Top EU court rules UK can change mind over Brexit

Read more: EU set to endorse Brexit deal but hard work lies ahead

One of the main sticking points since the Brexit talks began has been how to keep goods flowing between Northern Ireland in the U.K. and EU member country Ireland. May is sure to seek flexibility on this from her European partners.

But Juncker said that the so-called “backstop” — an insurance arrangement to ensure that no hard border appears after Brexit on March 29 — must remain, even though it was never meant to be used.

“We have a common determination to do everything to be not in the situation one day to use that backstop, but we have to prepare,” he said, and underlined that “Ireland will never be left alone.”

The European Parliament’s Brexit point man, Guy Verhofstadt, noted that with the cancelled vote in London “we have spiraled again into a new mess,” and he supported Juncker’s message.

“Whatever the request may be we will never let down our Irish friends. It is out of the question to renegotiate the backstop,” Verhofstadt said.

But Martin Callanan, Britain’s Minister of State at the Department for Exiting the EU, insisted that “the U.K. cannot be trapped permanently in the backstop.”

“It is very important that these have to be additional legally binding reassurances,” he told reporters in Brussels, adding that what lies ahead is “a difficult and complex negotiation.”

If the Brexit agreement is accepted by the U.K. Parliament, it must still be endorsed by the European Parliament before March 29.

May arrived in Berlin Tuesday for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, before flying to Brussels for meetings with Juncker and EU Council President Donald Tusk, who will chair Thursday’s summit. Tusk has also ruled out renegotiating the deal.

A senior German official said May would not get any pledge of new negotiations while in Berlin. And he stressed that the chief negotiators were in Brussels, not the German capital.

Asked as he arrived at a meeting in Brussels what May can expect from Merkel, Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Roth replied: “I hope they will wish each other Merry Christmas, strength and all the best for the new year. It’s good to speak to each other, but there will certainly be no promises of any kind that we will reopen matters now and renegotiate.”

___

Cook reported from Brussels. Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed.

Mike Corder And Lorne Cook, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Incumbent MLA Tom Shypitka is contesting Kootenay East for the BC Liberals. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
Wilkinson would have been a great premier: Shypitka

Re-elected Kootenay East MLA responds to resignation of party leader

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

Tom Shypitka, pictured with his campaign team. on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. Trevor Crawley photo
Updated: Shypitka wins second term; BC NDP cruise to majority

“Election Days,” rather than “Election Day,” may be the more accurate term… Continue reading

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

John Horgan has been re-elected the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. (File-Black Press)
Horgan trounces challengers to be re-elected in his Vancouver Island riding

MLA has represented constituency of Langford-Juan de Fuca and its predecessors since 2005

FILE – Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides the latest update on the COVID-19 pandemic in the province during a press conference in the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, October 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. shatters COVID-19 records with 817 weekend cases; masks now expected indoors

Three people have died over the past three reporting periods

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Interior Health sees 31 new cases of COVID-19 over record-breaking weekend

Eighty-six cases remain active and one person is hospitalized with the virus

RCMP have released more details regarding what led up to an arrest caught on video in Williams Lake Sunday, Oct. 26. (Facebook video screenshot)
Review launched after ‘high-risk, multi-jurisdictional’ chase, arrest in Williams Lake

RCMP launching a full review and code of conduct investigation

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Pxfuel)
B.C. limits events in private homes to household, plus ‘safe six’ amid COVID-19 surge

Henry issued a public health order limiting private gatherings to one household, plus a group of ‘safe six’ only

B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson speaks during a drive-in car rally campaign stop at a tour bus operator, in Delta, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Andrew Wilkinson stepping down as B.C. Liberal leader

Will stay on until the next party leader is chosen

VicPD and B.C. Conservation Officer Service teamed up to free two bucks who were entangled in a fishing net and dragging a wheelbarrow sized piece of driftwood behind them. (VicPD)
VIDEO: Police, B.C. Conservation help two bucks caught in one fishing net

Bucks were also dragging a wheelbarrow sized piece of driftwood behind them

A heavy police presence was spotted in Lumby, Monday, Oct. 26, 2020. (Facebook)
Police situation leads to ‘hold and secure’ at North Okanagan school

Police call for social media blackout in ongoing incident

Most Read