EU rules out new Brext deal as May delays voting in Parliament
11 December 2018
European Union leaders have ruled out any renegotiation of the deal, including the backstop, finalised with Britain and that the EU is ready to discuss how to facilitate ratification of the deal by the United Kingdom.
Theresa May has postponed a voting in parliament on the draft deal with the European Union on the planned exit of Britain from the 27-member union and said the date for a new vote depended on fresh talks with EU leaders, set to begin today in meetings with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
In an emergency statement to the House of Commons, May conceded the draft divorce agreement she struck with the European Union last month faced defeat by a "significant margin" of MPs if held Tuesday.
She vowed "no doubt this deal is the right one" but would seek "further assurances" over a controversial backstop clause relating to Northern Ireland.
In response, EU President Donald Tusk called a special summit of the other 27 leaders to discuss Brexit on Thursday, at the start of a two-day Brussels meeting that May is due to attend.
But he warned: "We will not renegotiate the deal, including the backstop, but we are ready to discuss how to facilitate UK ratification."
The delay in signing off the deal, just months before Britain is set to end its four-decade membership of the bloc on 29 March, sent the pound plunging to an 18-month low.
Sterling sank by more than 1.5 per cent to $1.2527, the lowest since April 2017.
"This is yet another blow for companies desperate for clarity," said Carolyn Fairbairn, head of big business lobby the Confederation of British Industry.
Both May and Tusk also said they would look at stepping up preparations for the potentially catastrophic possibility that Britain leaves the EU without any new legal arrangements in place.
"For as long as we fail to agree a deal, the risk of an accidental no deal increases," May told MPs.
May faced a huge rebellion within her own Conservative Party over the deal, primarily over the backstop clause designed to keep open Britain's border with Ireland.
The embattled leader said she would relay concerns to EU leaders, but also warned it was one of several "inescapable" compromises needed to get an agreement
May will now have to go for a negative vote or call re-election that would then go for a fresh Brexit referendum.
Earlier, the European Court of Justice gave hope to a small but growing number of MPs seeking a second referendum on Brexit, ruling that Britain was free to halt withdrawal from the bloc unilaterally.