Thursday, March 21, 2019 | ePaper
EU offers new Brexit deal clarity, won't renegotiate: Juncker
Reuters, Strasbourg :
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker attends a news conference after the extraordinary EU leaders summit to finalise and formalise the Brexit agreement in Brussels, Belgium.
The European Union is willing to give Britain further clarifications on its Brexit deal but will not renegotiate the treaty or its protocol on the Irish border, EU chief executive Jean-Claude Juncker said on Tuesday.
Addressing the European Parliament in Strasbourg, the European Commission president said he was "astonished" at Prime Minister Theresa May's inability to get the package agreed with the EU last month through the British parliament.
Noting that he would meet May in Brussels on Tuesday evening ahead of an EU summit on Thursday and Friday, Juncker said: "The deal we achieved is the best possible. It's the only deal possible. There is no room whatsoever for renegotiation."
"But of course there is room enough to give further clarifications and further interpretations without opening the withdrawal agreement," he said. "The withdrawal agreement will not be reopened."
Juncker repeated that neither side wanted ever to use a "backstop" that would keep Britain in a customs union with the EU in the absence of a better way to avoid extensive border checks between Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland.
"We have a common determination to do everything to be not in a situation one day to use that backstop but we have to prepare. It's necessary for the entire coherence of what we have agreed. It's necessary for Britain and it's necessary for Ireland. Ireland will never be left alone."
The chairman of European Union summits Donald Tusk is scheduled to meet British Prime Minister Theresa May at 1600 GMT on Tuesday, his spokesman said.
May is on a tour of EU capitals to seek last minute changes to the already agreed deal on Britain's withdrawal from the EU in order to push the agreement through British parliament.
She is to meet Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and finish with a meeting with Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
Meanwhile, embattled British Prime Minister Theresa May launched a tour of European capitals on Tuesday in a desperate bid to salvage her Brexit deal, a day after delaying a parliamentary vote on the text to avoid a crushing defeat.
May held talks in The Hague with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte before heading to Berlin to meet Chancellor Angela Merkel as she struggles to unite British lawmakers behind her faltering plan.
She was then to see EU President Donald Tusk and European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels.
"I'm surprised because we had reached an agreement on the 25th of November" at the last EU summit, Juncker told the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday, dubbing Brexit a "surprise guest" at this week's summit.