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Brexit: 'Nobody' in Brussels considering giving Theresa May concessions to get deal through parliament

Category: Political News,Politics

The European Commission has ruled out giving Theresa May legally-binding concessions to help get her Brexit deal through parliament, as the prime minister heads back to Brussels to plead for changes. 

Speaking after a meeting with British MPs in Brussels, Martin Selmayr, the European Commission’s feared general secretary who is in charge of no-deal preparations, said “nobody” on the EU side was considering backing down – and that the bloc was right to prepare for no deal.

The warning comes after the prime minister was sent back to Brussels by her MPs with instructions to ditch the controversial Northern Ireland backstop, despite repeated warnings from the EU that it was not up for negotiation. 

A European Commission spokesperson on Monday morning said they were not in a position to confirm any upcoming visits by Ms May to the EU capital, though they did not rule one out in future. 

Speaking separately in Westminster Downing Street confirmed that the PM had not spoken to any EU leaders over the phone about Brexit since last week’s vote in parliament on the backstop.

“On the EU side, nobody is considering [legally-binding assurances],” Mr Selmayr said in a post on social media following the meeting with MPs.

“Asked whether any assurance would help to get the Withdrawal Agreement through the Commons, the answers of MPs were ... inconclusive. 

“The meeting confirmed that the EU did well to start its no deal preparations in December 2017.”

Mr Selmayr, a close ally of Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, had been among those who met members of the commons EU select committee on Monday morning.

Speaking after the meeting Hilary Benn, the Labour MP who chairs the committee, said Mr Selmayr had made clear the backstop would not be re-opened - but that he had got the impression there could be further legal assurances to come if the EU could be convinced they would get the Brexit deal over the line in the Commons.

Simon Coveney, Ireland’s deputy prime minister, was also in Brussels on Monday for meetings. Speaking to reporters, he said MPs’ orders to Ms May to replace the backstop were “unreasonable”, suggesting they “take the time to read” the withdrawal agreement.

“The Irish protocol in the withdrawal agreement already allows for alternative solutions to replace the backstop, and if they’re there they can replace the backstop – that’s always been the point here,” he said.

“The point here is that none of those ideas around alternative arrangements have actually stood up to scrutiny. We certainly haven’t seen any that have.” 

Labour MP Hilary Benn speaks to media after a meeting with the Secretary General of the European Commission Martin Selmayr (Getty Images)

Back in Westminster the prime minister’s spokesman denied that the absence of conversations with EU leaders showed the Conservative party was still “negotiating with itself” about Brexit.

He said: “She has spoken with the presidents of the European Council and the European Commission. She has been very clear that if we are to get parliamentary support for the deal there need to be changes.

“What we are now doing is working at home on the proposition that we will take to Brussels."

Eurosceptic MPs voted last week for the so-called "Brady Amendment", which ordered Ms May to drop the backstop and seek "alternative arrangements". Some MPs believe the backstop, which prevents an Irish border by keeping the UK inside the EU customs territory, would be a breach of British sovereignty.

The Independent has launched its #FinalSay campaign to demand that voters are given a voice on the final Brexit deal.

Sign our petition here

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