British Prime Minister Theresa May has failed to secure any tangible “reassurances” from Brussels that she can take back to her Parliament, with EU leaders refusing to renegotiate the divorce agreement with the UK.
Before Brussels delivered its verdict, May told EU leaders that the Brexit deal is “at risk” if British lawmakers’ concerns are not addressed, and urged her European counterparts to “change the perception” of the controversial Irish border backstop clause.
Yet she has received only vague assurances that the backstop, if triggered, would only be a temporary measure – with no particular timeframe – and that the bloc will “work speedily” and do its best to negotiate, in time, a new trade agreement.
The EU has made clear that the backstop was their “insurance policy” to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland and to preserve the “integrity” of the single market. “It is the Union’s firm determination to work speedily on a subsequent agreement that establishes by 31 December 2020 alternative arrangements, so that the backstop will not need to be triggered,” the final communiqué of Thursday’s meeting reads.
The ball is now in Britain’s court, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, whose country holds the EU’s rotating presidency at the moment, said, as leaders of the bloc refused to negotiate the terms of the agreement and said they intend to ratify it as is.
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