EU leaders refuse to renegotiate Brexit deal

Written by Kevin Schofield on 14 December 2018 in News

May flew to Brussels seeking "legally-binding" assurances over the Irish backstop

Image credit: PA

Theresa May was left humiliated by EU leaders once again after they rejected her calls for fresh concessions to help get her Brexit deal through the House of Commons.

In a devastating blow, an attempted compromise on the Northern Ireland backstop was ditched after the Prime Minister was accused of failing to clearly set out what she wanted.

May had flown to Brussels seeking "legally-binding" assurances that the backstop, which would keep the UK in a customs union with the EU as a way of avoiding a hard border in Ireland, would be a time-limited arrangement.

That followed her decision to ditch a Commons vote on the Brexit deal after being warned she faced a devastating defeat.

But after pleading her case to the other 27 leaders at a European Council summit, the Prime Minister's demands were rejected as the EU hardened its stance.

A draft proposal which would have provided "political and legal assurances" that the backstop would not be indefinite was scrapped.

Meanwhile, a separate pledge that the backstop "does not represent a desirable outcome” for the EU was also ditched.

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said: "Our UK friends need to say what they want, instead of asking us to say what we want. So we would like within a few weeks our UK friends to set out their expectations for us because this debate is sometimes nebulous and imprecise and I would like clarifications."

And in comments which will infuriate Tory Brexiteers who wanted May to wring fresh concessions out of the EU, he added: "We don’t want the UK to think there can be any form of renegotiation, that is crystal clear. We can add clarifications but no real changes.

"There will be no legally binding obligations imposed on the withdrawal treaty."

The EU response means May will return from Brussels empty-handed, despite telling her MPs that she would get "legal assurances" to satisfy their concerns on the backstop.

She made those comments to a meeting of the Tory backbench 1922 Committee just before MPs voted 200-117 to support her in a no-confidence ballot.

Downing Street confirmed yesterday that the meaningful vote will not take place before Christmas. Cabinet sources told The Sun it has now been pencilled in for 14 January.

However, the Prime Minister's chances of getting it through the Commons seem as bleak as ever following her latest Brussels rebuff.

Lib Dem Brexit spokesman Tom Brake said: "The Prime Minister should have saved her train fare to Brussels. It's another grim night for her, in a week she will want to forget. But it seems like Theresa May has underperformed against a bar so low it was resting on the floor.

"She was never going to get a major overhaul of her deal, let alone a brand spanking new one. She must concede defeat and accept that a people's vote provides the only way out of this Brexit nightmare."

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