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30 Jan 2019

JUST IN: Uncertainty Finally Rocks May’s Bid To Rewrite Brexit Deal, As Lawmakers Point Out Pending Crises

European leaders moved on Wednesday to head off British Prime Minister Theresa May’s bid to rewrite the Brexit divorce deal, warning they will not budge.

Having thrown out the exit deal May negotiated with the EU, divided British lawmakers voted Tuesday to send her back to get an Irish border “backstop” clause removed.

May seized on this as a chance to prevent Britain crashing out of the European Union on March 29 without an agreement on the terms of the split, vowing to return to Brussels to demand changes to the text.

But even she admits she faces a formidable challenge convincing Brussels to re-open an accord that took 18 excruciating months to conclude, and European leaders are so far united in dismissing any such manoeuvre.

“It’s an extraordinary situation when a prime minister and a government negotiate a deal and then goes back and during the ratification process votes against their own deal,” Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney told RTE radio.



“That’s like saying in a negotiation, ‘Well either you give me what I want or I’m jumping out of the window’.”

In Brussels, ahead of a keenly anticipated speech by EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, frustrated officials including Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier insisted the remaining 27 EU members were united.
A spokesman for EU Council President Donald Tusk swiftly insisted the Brexit deal was “not open for renegotiation”.

Echoing earlier warnings from French President Emmanuel Macron and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, German leader Angela Merkel’s spokesman said reopening the deal was “not on the agenda” And Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar insisted “renegotiation is not on the table.”

The “backstop” written into the negotiated deal is seen by EU leaders as an insurance policy against disrupting the Irish peace process. It could legally lock the UK into EU trade rules indefinitely in order to keep the Irish border free-flowing.

Guy Verhofstadt, who heads the European Parliament’s six-member Brexit steering group, said the backstop clause was “absolutely needed” and there was hardly room to change the deal. Going further, group member Philippe Lamberts was scathing.

“Saying you’re against the backstop is like saying you’re against bad weather. You might not like it, but you can’t change it,” he said.

In addition, Lamberts said May’s eurosceptic rivals would have to decide whether they were prepared to accept cosmetic changes to the divorce paperwork to avoid a “no deal” Brexit and a border in Ireland.

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