No one in EU considering changes to Brexit deal, British MPs are warned

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No one in EU considering changes to Brexit deal, British MPs are warned

  


Fact-finding mission: European Affairs Minister Helen McEntee met Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok (centre) in Co Louth as he learned more about the implications of Brexit on local communities. Photo: Aoife Moore /PA Wire
Fact-finding mission: European Affairs Minister Helen McEntee met Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok (centre) in Co Louth as he learned more about the implications of Brexit on local communities. Photo: Aoife Moore /PA Wire

Nobody in the European Union is considering legally binding changes to the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement and the Border backstop, the EU most senior civil servant insisted yesterday.

Martin Selmayr, the secretary-general of the European Commission, said members of the House of Commons Brexit Committee, who he met in Brussels yesterday were unable to say that any compromise would deliver a majority for Theresa May’s deal.

Speaking in Japan, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she did not want the Withdrawal Agreement renegotiated. But she claimed difficult questions could be resolved with creativity, the strongest hint to date that the EU’s most powerful leader could be prepared to compromise.

“To solve this point you have to be creative and listen to each other, and such discussions can and must be conducted,” Ms Merkel said during a visit to Tokyo.

After their 90-minute meeting with Mr Selmayr, the Brexit committee MPs suggested he had floated the idea of reopening the Withdrawal Agreement.

The European Commission and EU-27 have repeatedly ruled out reopening or renegotiating the agreement, although there is growing belief in Brussels they could be open to cosmetic changes to get it through parliament.

“On the EU side, nobody is considering this,” Mr Selmayr, who is in charge of the commission’s no-deal planning, wrote on Twitter. “Asked whether any assurance would help to get the Withdrawal Agreement through the Commons, the answers of MPs were… inconclusive,” he added.

Britain is yet to formally request the Withdrawal Agreement be reopened but that is expected to happen soon, after MPs told Mrs May to renegotiate the backstop. She has vowed to both reopen the agreement and secure legally binding changes to the backstop, which, if triggered, would put the UK in a bare-bones customs union with the EU to prevent a hard Border.

Sabine Weyand, the EU’s deputy chief negotiator, also punctured Brexiteers’ hopes by posting on Twitter yesterday: “Can technology solve the Irish border problem? Short answer: not in the next few years.”

Mrs May flies into Belfast today trying to calm Northern Ireland’s business Brexit jitters.

In Ireland, the Government received a boost with a strong message from Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok that the backstop could not be undone.

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Mr Blok stood with European Affairs Minister Helen McEntee right on the Border between the Republic and the North at Carrickcarnan, Co Louth.

“I’m quite confident the EU unity will be there at the end,” he said.

“By staying united is the only way we can get agreement with the UK,” Mr Blok told reporters.

The Dutch minister was asked why, given long-standing EU alliances between the UK and the Netherlands, his government would not help Mrs May.

“In a good relationship, it sometimes pays to be blunt,” he said. “And after such long negotiations you can’t expect a new result,” the Dutch minister insisted.

Meanwhile, one of the architects of the peace process is backing a legal challenge against Mrs May proposed Brexit deal on the grounds that it undermines the Good Friday Agreement.

David Trimble, the former leader of the Ulster Unionist Party who was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for his work on the agreement, is working on the plans to challenge the deal in the High Court in London.

Mr Trimble said the legal action would be launched either this week or next week.

Irish Independent

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