German Minister of State for European Affairs Michael Roth, center, speaks with members of the delegation during a General Affairs Council meeting at the Europa building in Brussels, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

UK’s May lobbies EU leaders in fight to save Brexit deal

Top European Union officials ruled out Tuesday any renegotiation of the divorce agreement with Britain.

Top European Union officials on Tuesday ruled out any renegotiation of the divorce agreement with Britain, as Prime Minister Theresa May fought to save her Brexit deal by lobbying leaders in Europe’s capitals.

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. She acknowledged that the deal would be rejected in London “by a significant margin.”

Rutte betrayed little of their conversation, tweeting only that they had “a useful dialogue which saw us discuss the latest Brexit developments.”

But European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker warned that the agreement— almost 600 pages long, highly technical and legally binding — cannot be re-opened for negotiation at a summit of EU leaders on Thursday. He did say, however, 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, reiterated 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 withdrawal agreement.”

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.

Read more: Top EU court rules UK can change mind over Brexit

Read more: EU set to endorse Brexit deal but hard work lies ahead

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. 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 cancelled 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.

But Martin Callanan, Britain’s Minister of State at the Department for Exiting the EU, insisted that “the U.K. cannot be trapped permanently in the backstop.”

“It is very important that these have to be additional legally binding reassurances,” he told reporters in Brussels, adding that what lies ahead is “a difficult and complex negotiation.”

If the Brexit agreement is accepted by the U.K. Parliament, it must still be endorsed by the European Parliament before March 29.

May arrived in Berlin Tuesday for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, before flying to Brussels for meetings with Juncker and EU Council President Donald Tusk, who will chair Thursday’s summit. Tusk has also ruled out renegotiating the deal.

A senior German official said May would not 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.”

___

Cook reported from Brussels. Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed.

Mike Corder And Lorne Cook, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Two-vehicle crash in Langford sends one to hospital Monday morning

Driver sent to hospital with unspecified injuries

Recent arrests skim surface of Victoria’s human trafficking problem

Port city makes desirable place for traffickers flying under the radar

Victoria Canadian Forces member honored with exceptional Rotary Club award

Capt. Jacqueline Zweng is the Western Canada Ambassador of Wounded Warriors Canada

Oak Bay athletes rule the slopes at Island ski and snowboard series

Oak Bay boys take top ski, snowboard honours

B.C. budget expected to stay the course as economic growth moderates

Finance minister said ICBC costs have affected budget

VIDEO: Ottawa wants quick, peaceful resolution to pipeline protests, Trudeau says

The protests have manifested themselves as blockades on different rail lines across the country

Canucks acquire forward Tyler Toffoli from Kings in push for playoffs

Vancouver sends Schaller, Madden, pick to L.A.

New highway proposed between Alberta and B.C.

The route would connect Red Deer to Kamloops

Wet’suwet’en and B.C. government have been talking Aboriginal title for a year

Coastal GasLink says it has agreements with all 20 elected First Nations councils along the 670-kilometre route

Trudeau tightlipped on plan to end protests ‘quickly and peacefully’

The prime minister, who cancelled a two-day trip to Barbados this week to deal with the crisis at home

Canadian standards for coronavirus protection to be reviewed, health agency says

The protocols set out how health workers should protect themselves and their patients

Monday marks one-year anniversary of man missing from Langley

42-year-old B.C. man, Searl Smith, was last seen leaving Langley Memorial Hospital on Feb. 17, 2019

Amtrak warns of delays as railways from Seattle to B.C. blocked by Wet’suwet’en supporters

Coastal GasLink said it’s signed benefits agreements with all 20 elected band councils along pipeline route

Federal emergency group meets on pipeline protests as rail blockades continue

There’s mounting political pressure for Trudeau to put an end to the blockades

Most Read