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Theresa May to hold more talks with EU leaders as prime minister looks to save Brexit deal

May was in Brussels hoped to get some reassurances

May speaking to media upon her arrival at the EU summit yesterday.
May speaking to media upon her arrival at the EU summit yesterday.
Image: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

Updated Dec 14th 2018, 2:20 PM

THERESA MAY says that Britain and the EU will hold more talks in the coming days, denying reports that bloc leaders refused her plea for reassurances on her Brexit plan.

The British Prime Minister welcomed a statement issued by the other 27 EU leaders restating their position on arrangements for the Irish border, which has caused MPs in Britain to threaten to reject the deal.

“As formal conclusions, these commitments have legal status and therefore should be welcomed,” she told reporters after a Brussels summit, but added that MPs would require further assurances.

It follows talks between May and EU Council President Donald Tusk, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and others in Brussels this afternoon.

“I note there has been reporting that the EU is not willing to consider any further clarification,” she said.

“The EU is clear – as I am – that if we are going to leave with a deal this is it,” she said.

“But my discussions with colleagues today have shown that further clarification and discussion following the Council’s conclusions is in fact possible.

“There is work still to do and we will be holding talks in coming days about how to obtain the further assurances that the UK parliament needs in order to be able to approve the deal.”

Reaction ‘unsurprising’

May, meanwhile, confirmed her government would be “talking further” about its preparations for the possibility Britain leaves the EU on March 29 with no agreement in place.

“I believe it’s better to leave with a deal, with a good deal and I believe the deal we have is a good deal,” she said.

DUP leader Arlene Foster – whose party is propping up the Conservatives in the House of Commons under a confidence and supply deal – hit out at both May and the EU following the meetings.

“The reaction by the EU is unsurprising,” she said in a statement.

“They are doing what they always do. The key question is whether the prime minister will stand up to them or whether she will roll over as has happened previously.

“This is a difficulty of the prime minister’s own making. A deal was signed off which the prime minister should have known would not gain the support of parliament.”

After meeting May, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that while some of her suggestions “made sense”, others were “difficult”.

Varadkar said the EU might be able to give Britain “a greater assurance” that speedy talks on a new UK-EU trade deal would mean the backstop would never need to be used.

Deal ‘a trap’

With May having promised to have something to offer MPs before they finally vote on the Brexit deal by 21 January, Juncker said she would have to come up with proposals in the next few weeks if she wanted Europe’s support.

However, he said he would publish further plans on Wednesday to protect European businesses and citizens in case the deal fails, and Britain exits on 29 March with no new arrangements place.

May told EU leaders they must help her “change the perception that the backstop could be a trap from which the UK cannot escape”, adding: “Until we do, the deal — our deal — is at risk.”

“With the right assurances, this deal can be passed. Indeed it is the only deal that is capable of getting through my parliament,” she told them.

But while an early draft of the summit conclusions had said the EU “stands ready to examine whether any further assurances can be provided” on the backstop, this was removed from the final published version.

Juncker did offer one olive branch, promising that talks on the future trading relationship – a deal on which would undermine the need for the backstop – would start as soon as MPs and the European Parliament approved the Brexit deal.

© AFP 2018 

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