Hours before British Prime Minister Theresa May is due to travel to Brussels to meet with European Union leaders, the men she will be seeking to win concessions of went public with their determination to see no changes are made.
Theresa May is due to meet with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker Thursday, where according to UK media reports she is expected to make a last-minute plea for changes to the Brexit deal she negotiated with the bloc, but which was rejected by Britain’s Parliament.
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UK lawmakers have indicated they could support a deal which either removes or modifies the so-called Irish backstop, the legal mechanism that could hold the United Kingdom inside the Common Market and EU laws against its will for years after Brexit is officially completed.
For her part, the prime minister has said she would not remove the backstop altogether but would attempt to have it modified.
Anticipating these overtures, Juncker told a press conference Wednesday that he would not accept any change.
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The top Eurocrat said: “Brexit is not a bilateral question between the Republic of Ireland and the UK… It’s a European issue and that’s why we cannot accept the idea that the withdrawal agreement could be reopened.
“The backstop is part of the withdrawal agreement and we cannot reopen the discussion on the backstop.”
Asserting that the prime minister was wasting her time even coming to Brussels, Juncker said: “She knows that the Commission is not prepared to reopen the issue.”
His comments came among others by the European Union’s top Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt, who likewise said there would be no consideration of change. The hardened Europhile who was once described by a German politician as an “ambitious politician who wants to achieve a United States of Europe” and who would work to “punish the British, full stop” said he stood by the deal he had created.
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Mr Verhofstadt said on Wednesday, reports the Associated Press: “The withdrawal agreement is fair and cannot be replaced.”
The Brexit negotiator echoed comments by Angela Merkel earlier in the week when he said Wednesday, “it is the UK’s obligation to now propose a positive and viable proposal on the way forward”, a somewhat contradictory position given his and others refusal to renegotiate.
Although it is the outcome that all parties involved in the negotiations say they wish to most avoid, the intransigence of the European negotiating team has the inevitable impact of pushing the UK closer to a so called no-deal Brexit — a full and clean break from the European Union.
Watch Farage: No Deal Brexit Now More Likely Because of EU ‘Fanatics Who Won’t Compromise’ https://t.co/Q26SbNNYZL
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This option is now most popular with voters in the UK, but is a nightmare situation for European leaders who would find themselves with a significant budget black-hole without British cash, and with their domestic businesses facing tariffs to make essential exports to the large British market.
Nigel Farage underlined this paradox in a now-viral speech to the European Parliament last week, when he spoke just feet away from rival Juncker saying: “No deal means no £39bn, and your voters will be coughing up the money.
“No deal means the 100 million bottles we buy every year from Italy will become more expensive, as will three-quarters of a million German cars. So why don’t we all prepare sensibly for a no deal scenario? Why don’t we prepare to go to the World Trade Organization and use Article 24, so we can have a two year period of no tariffs, no quotas, no restrictions of any kind, no problems or difficulties with Ireland whatsoever?”