PM May Gets Mandate For Brexit Change, But EU Leaders Reject Concessions

Bernier Verhofstadt
AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert

The European Union’s Brexit negotiators flatly refused to accommodate any sort of renegotiation of the bloc’s ‘deal’ with the United Kingdom over Brexit, just hours after the nation’s Members of Parliament (MPs) voted to give the Prime Minister a mandate for change.

EU leaders told Theresa May Wednesday morning their way was the only way — their hardline stance perhaps inadvertently drawing the United Kingdom further towards a full, no-deal freedom Brexit in March.

MPs voted Tuesday night on seven amendments to the government’s Brexit business, just two of which passed. One, from Labour MP Caroline Spelman, intended to prevent what has been called a ‘no deal Brexit’, that is to say, Britain actually leaving the European Union without being bound to European Union laws in future. While Spelman was successful, the motion is not legally binding on the government.

The second by Sir Graham Brady requires the government to revisit the terms of the Brexit deal with the European Union, which the Prime Minister signalled her intent to do shortly afterwards.

Under the terms of the present deal, while the United Kingdom would officially leave the European Union on March 29th this would be in effect in name only, as the nation in whole or part would remain in a customs union with the bloc thanks to what is known as the ‘Irish backstop’.

This provision, demanded by the European Union as one of the many prices for a negotiated deal between the United Kingdom and the EU has proven absolutely toxic in Britain, angering both Brexiteers who say it created a Brexit in name only, or ‘Brino’, and Unionists in Ulster who say it would make the province an economic vassal of the European Union.

The Prime Minister agreeing to renegotiate this part of the deal has been enough to unite fractious Conservative backbenchers — albeit temporarily — behind the Prime Minister, who just weeks ago was facing a vote of no confidence from Brexit rebels within her own party.

But European leaders were clear after the vote that they would not renegotiate the deal — perhaps unsurprisingly, given the enormous advantage it affords them at the United Kingdom’s expense.

Michel Barnier told reporters after a meeting of the European Parliament’s Brexit committee Wednesday morning that: “The EU institutions remain united, and we stand by the agreement that we have negotiated with the U.K.”

His comments followed others by top EU official Donald Tusk, who spoke out against Britain’s desire to negotiate a fairer Brexit deal just minutes after Tuesday’s vote. He said the deal the European Union was prepared to allow Britain “remains the best and only way to ensure an orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union… The backstop is part of the withdrawal agreement, and the withdrawal agreement is not open for re-negotiation.”

Despite the intransigence of EU leaders, there is still optimism among Brexiteers for an improved deal. Brexit hero Sammy Wilson, who has risen from comparative obscurity to become a regular voice speaking up for both Northern Ireland’s rights and Brexit says there’s a strong opportunity for Theresa May to get a new deal. The Guardian reports his remarks: “What she sold to us last night was that she is going to go back to the EU and ask for the withdrawal agreement to be reopened…

“…it is perfectly possible for her to deliver … She has got a very strong hand. She can say the House of Commons has roundly rejected the withdrawal agreement and she now has the Commons backing her to reopen the agreement and get changes. We are leaving on March 29, whether the EU likes it or not.”

The events of the past 24 hours may have had the unintended effect — among Remainers and EU leaders — of pushing the United Kingdom closer to a full Brexit. Because British law demands that the nation depart from the European Union at the end of March whether a deal has been agreed or not, the Prime Minister now being sent by Parliament back to Brussels to ask for a deal the EU refuses to consider means the likelihood of Britain defaulting to no deal in 58 days is now slightly higher.

Oliver JJ Lane is the editor of Breitbart London — Follow him on Twitter and Facebook

 

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