Europe has told British Prime Minister Theresa May, again, that it will not reopen talks on the Brexit agreement as she arrived in Brussels to persuade EU leaders to agree to key changes as demanded by the UK Parliament.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Thursday the EU could only “add wording” to the Political Declaration about what they aim for in their future relationship.
May’s meeting with EU leaders takes place amid a frosty atmosphere after European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted there was a “special place in Hell” for people who “promoted Brexit” without a plan to execute it. His words rattled politicians in the UK and drew sift condemnation from Brexiteers.
I’ve been wondering what that special place in hell looks like, for those who promoted #Brexit, without even a sketch of a plan how to carry it out safely.
— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) February 6, 2019
After meeting Tusk on Thursday, May said the language he used in the tweet “was not helpful and caused widespread dismay in the United Kingdom.”
British lawmakers voted last month to send May back to Brussels to renegotiate the terms of the Brexit deal, specifically over concerns regarding the Irish backstop. The backstop — an insurance policy designed to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland, which remains part of the UK, and the Republic of Ireland, an EU member — has been a particularly thorny issue in May’s deal, with British politicians firm that they will not back her deal without changes.
In a joint statement, May and Juncker described their meeting as “robust but constructive” and said they’d agreed that the UK and EU “should hold talks as to whether a way through can be found that would gain the broadest possible support in the UK Parliament and respect the guidelines agreed by the European Council.”
As she arrived to meet Juncker, May was met by an anti-Brexit protester who jumped in front of her car while holding a poster that read “Don’t Crash Out!” The man was swiftly intercepted by security.
May asserted Thursday afternoon that she would deliver Brexit “on time” and that she would be “negotiating hard” to ensure it.
“What I see and hear from leaders is a desire for us to work together to ensure we can deliver the UK leaving the EU with a deal.”
However, there’s no doubt that the clock is ticking for May, with just 50 days until Britain’s departure from the EU. The country remains on a knife edge over Brexit, with Westminster standing strong on the backstop and the EU emphatically ruling out a new, renegotiated deal.
The chances, as each day rolls on, point more and more towards the UK crashing out of the bloc without a deal — which could have catastrophic effects on food and medicine supply, businesses and travel.
Tusk tweeted after his meeting with May that there was “still no breakthrough in sight” on a Brexit deal and that talks would continue.