Brussels insists Brexit deal will not be renegotiated
EU leaders stressed on Tuesday that Britain’s exit deal would not be renegotiated as Theresa May expressed “regret” at failing to pass an exit package before being forced from office.
Speaking as she arrived at a summit of EU leaders in Brussels, the UK prime minister said she hoped her successor would forge a consensus through “compromise”, while stressing her preference to leave the EU with a negotiated deal.
“It’s a matter of great regret to me that I haven’t been able to deliver Brexit,” said Mrs May, who announced plans on Friday to step down as prime minister this summer.
“But, of course, that matter is for my successor and they will have to find a way of addressing the very strongly held views on both sides of this issue. To do that and to get a majority in parliament, as I said on Friday, I think will require compromise.”
Mark Rutte, Dutch prime minister, said Mrs May would be greeted on Tuesday “with a lot of kisses and hugs” because “we respect her a lot”. But he and other EU leaders reiterated they would be unwilling to revisit the terms of Britain’s exit deal.
"No, no, no, no, no. We had the negotiation, we finished a negotiation and it is not because a head of government is going to change that we restart negotiations. That is not part of the game", Xavier Bettel, prime minister of Luxembourg
Before meeting with Mrs May, Jean-Claude Juncker, the Commission president, said he would be “crystal clear” that “there will be no renegotiation”.
Xavier Bettel, the Luxembourg premier, said: “No, no, no, no, no”. he said. “We had the negotiation, we finished a negotiation and it is not because a head of government is going to change that we restart negotiations,” he added. “That is not part of the game.”
In their pitch to become Tory leader, Brexiters such as Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab have insisted that Britain should leave the EU on October 31, with or without a deal. Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary, has by contrast floated the idea of reopening talks on the exit agreement with a revamped negotiating team.
Mrs May said she would not comment “on the views of individual candidates …but I continue to have the view that it’s best for the UK to leave with a deal”.
Since Mrs May’s deal was rejected by the House of Commons three time this year, EU leaders have adopted a united position against any big changes to the withdrawal agreement, which outlines the terms of Britain’s departure. At the same time they have left open the potential to recast the political declaration on future EU-UK relations.
EU diplomats acknowledge that a serious attempt to revive the Brexit deal would need some significant changes to the withdrawal agreement, which includes timelines for future negotiations that are based on Britain leaving in March 2019.
But most leaders are opposed to fundamentally changing the most controversial part of the deal: a backstop plan to maintain an open border on the island of Ireland, regardless of future UK-EU relations.
Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s premier, argued that this week’s European election results underlined the unease in Northern Ireland over a hard Brexit. Noting that two out of three MEPs from the region supported remaining in the EU, Mr Varadkar said: “I hope the British people and the British government get the message”.