May Fights to Save Brexit Deal 12/11 06:26
Top European Union officials on Tuesday ruled out any renegotiation of the
divorce agreement with Britain as Prime Minister Theresa May launched her fight
to save her Brexit deal by lobbying leaders in Europe's capitals.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) -- Top European Union officials on Tuesday ruled
out any renegotiation of the divorce agreement with Britain as Prime Minister
Theresa May launched her fight to save her Brexit deal by lobbying leaders in
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, sensing that it would
be rejected in London "by a significant margin."
While May made no public comment as she met Rutte in The Hague, European
Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker warned that the Brexit agreement
cannot be re-opened for negotiation at a summit of EU leaders on Thursday, but
he did say 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, underlined 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
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.
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, and 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 canceled 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.
If the Brexit agreement is accepted by the U.K. Parliament, it must still be
endorsed by the European Parliament before March 29.
May also travels Tuesday to Berlin for talks with German Chancellor Angela
Merkel and to Brussels for meetings with Juncker and EU Council President
Donald Tusk, who will chair Thursday's summit.
A senior German official said May won't 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."