UK PM Theresa May seeks Brexit assurances from EU | News | DW | 11.12.2018
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UK PM Theresa May seeks Brexit assurances from EU

UK Prime Minister Theresa May embarked on a whistle-stop tour of Europe, after postponing a parliamentary vote on the Brexit deal. May had been faced with the possibility of a crushing defeat on the bill.

British Prime Minister Theresa May failed to get major changes to a controversial draft Brexit deal from European leaders on Tuesday, a day after she suspended a parliamentary vote on the agreement.

May had intended to get "reassurances" that the deal's controversial backstop arrangement for Northern Ireland was temporary. 

But Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, EU President Donald Tusk and European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker refused to agree to any changes after their separate meetings with the British prime minister.

After his meeting with May, Tusk wrote on Twitter that EU leaders want to help May get parliamentary approval, but that "the question is how."

Key points on Tuesday:

  • May met Tusk and Juncker after meeting Merkel in Berlin and Rutte in the Netherlands.
  • Merkel told conservative CDU/CSU lawmakers after her meeting with May that "there will be no further renegotiation," DPA news agency reported.
  • The contentious Northern Irish backstop clause remains a major sticking point for pro-Brexit lawmakers who argue that it could leave Britain tied to the EU indefinitely.
  • At home, May faces a rebellion within her own Conservative Party, mainly over the controversial backstop. She called off a planned parliamentary vote on the accord — set for Tuesday — at the last minute on Monday in a bid to drum up more support beforehand.

Updates (all times in Central European Time, GMT+1)

14:10 The UK's Junior Brexit Minister Robin Walker has said that parliament will discuss the government’s next steps ahead, even if there is no deal to approve before January 21.

"In the unlikely and highly undesirable circumstances that as of 21st January there is no deal before the house, the government would bring a statement to the house and arrange for a debate as specified by the law," said Walker.

Theresa May's spokesman James Slack said earlier that Prime Minister Theresa May would bring back her deal to the House of Commons "before January 21."

13:45 May's arrival was somewhat jinxed, with her car door jammed for some moments as Merkel waited on the red carpet. Just another example of things not going quite as UK prime minister would hope.

13:40 Guntram Wolff from the Brussels think tank Bruegel has told DW that the EU will not offer May anything that could reopen the possibility of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. "There is no other solution than the one already on the table," he said. "The British acted as if they could square the circle for a long time. Now they realize they can't."

Read more: Brexit deal: What Germany wants, what Theresa May can get

13:30 Theresa May has arrived at the Federal Chancellery in Berlin to hold talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel. The chancellor greeted May with a handshake as the British prime minister forged ahead with her mini-tour, visiting the Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium on Tuesday. No statements or news conferences were planned after their meeting.

13.20 DW's Kate Brady says there's a damp reception awaiting Theresa May in Berlin.

13:00 A man has been detained by armed police outside the UK parliament. It's unclear whether or not the incident is related to Brexit.

12:50 The UK's Press Association has quoted Theresa May's spokesman James Slack as saying that she will bring her deal back to the House of Commons "before January 21." 

Slack said May's meeting with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte had been "very productive."

12:25 Theresa May has landed in the German capital, Berlin, and is on her way to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

12:00 Britain wants "legally binding" assurances from EU leaders it will not be trapped indefinitely in their customs union by the Irish "backstop" clause.

Martin Callanan, a junior minister in the Department for Exiting the European Union, was speaking on arrival in Brussels for talks.
On Monday, May postponed a bid to get the Brexit deal she negotiated with EU leaders last month through parliament. In the meantime, she now wants new reassurances over the emergency backstop clause.

Jean-Claude Juncker earlier said the deal could not be renegotiated, only open to "further clarification and further interpretations."

11.:50 DW's Barbara Wesel believes Theresa May feels that — as in Monty Python's dead parrot sketch — her Brexit deal isn't deceased, just in need of some time out.

11:05 Theresa May has left The Hague and is headed for talks in Berlin with Chancellor Angela Merkel. In The Hague, the British prime minister had breakfast with Prime Minister Mark Rutte but made no public comment about the content of their discussions.

10:40 Ireland has said it will ramp up plans for a no-deal Brexit. Foreign Minister Simon Coveney on Tuesday said this included accelerating the recruitment of customs officials and veterinary inspectors to work at ports and airports.

Meanwhile, Germany's VDMA engineering association claims that the chances of avoiding a hard Brexit are shrinking by the day, so firms should urgently prepare for such a scenario.

Read more: Brexit chaos leaves business leaders across Europe dismayed

The scenario of a no-deal Brexit will be on the agenda at a meeting of European leaders on Thursday, European Council President Donald Tusk has said.

09:59 Michael Roth, a Social Democrat and junior minister at Germany's foreign office, told reporters on Tuesday that he did not see any scope for changes to the proposed agreement on Brexit. Roth stressed that, although May was set to visit Chancellor Angela Merkel later in the day, the chief negotiators were in Brussels rather than Berlin.

09:35 European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has said he is ruling out any renegotiation of the divorce agreement. However, he did say there was room for "further clarification and further interpretations without opening the withdrawal agreement."

09:20 Theresa May arrives at The Hague residence of Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte as part of her efforts to rescue her Brexit deal.

Read more:  Opinion: A Monty Python madhouse in Westminster


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