EU′s Jean-Claude Juncker rebuffs UK′s plan to change Brexit deal | News | DW | 30.01.2019
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EU's Jean-Claude Juncker rebuffs UK's plan to change Brexit deal

The president of the European Commission said the United Kingdom had increased the risk of a no-deal Brexit. He dismissed any fresh talks over the controversial Irish backstop in the draft EU-UK Brexit deal.

The Brexit withdrawal agreement negotiated by the European Union and the United Kingdom "remains the best and only deal possible," European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Wednesday.

Juncker told EU 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 UK province of Northern Ireland.

Jean-Claude Juncker and Michel Barnier

Jean-Claude Juncker and Michel Barnier

UK lawmakers called on May to renegotiate the backstop in a vote on Tuesday. The vote had "increased the risk of a disorderly withdrawal," Juncker said.

The president assured EU lawmakers that they would be "the first to know, and the last to decide" on any future talks.

Barnier weighs in

The EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, then addressed the parliament, telling lawmakers that the Irish backstop was part and parcel of the withdrawal agreement and would not be re-negotiated.

"We need this backstop as it is," Barnier said. 

Speaking later on French radio, Barnier remarked: "We ourselves talked of so-called alternative arrangements which could prevent the return of a hard border. Only, no one, on either side, was able to say what arrangement would be needed to ensure controls on goods, animals and merchandise, without having a border." 

"We have neither the time, nor the technologies," he added.

But Barnier did say the EU was ready to re-work the political declaration for a future trade deal: "We're open to being more ambitious and perhaps put into perspective that which is causing a problem in the withdrawal agreement."

The EU shared the will of the UK parliament to avoid a no-deal Brexit, but believes the current withdrawal agreement is the only way to avoid a disorderly exit, Barnier remarked. 

Common EU front

Juncker and Barnier's comments echo those of other EU leaders who quickly dismissed the UK parliament's call for renegotiations.

"The backstop is part of the withdrawal agreement," a spokesman for European Council President Donald Tusk said on Tuesday night. "The withdrawal agreement is not open for renegotiation."

He said Brussels was open to a delay beyond the deadline, but would continue its preparations for a no-deal Brexit on March 29.

Prime Minister Theresa May held meetings with opposition parties in London on Wednesday and is due to return to parliament for another vote on her Brexit deal on February 14. 

Watch video 01:53

May to seek fresh negotiations with EU

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