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No renegotiation, says EU after MPs back plan to replace backstop (The Guardian)


Brussels reiterates position minutes after Commons backed plan to replace Irish backstop

Theresa May immediately hit a brick wall in Brussels after being backed by MPs to reopen the withdrawal agreement, as Donald Tusk, with the backing of Emmanuel Macron, said the EU would not renegotiate.

Within minutes of the Commons backing the prime minister’s plan to replace the Irish backstop, a spokesman for the European council’s president insisted Tusk would not permit any changes to the deal already agreed with Downing Street.

Tusk, the EU’s most senior official, instead urged the prime minister to explain her next steps, claiming the agreement negotiated over the last 20 months “remains the best and only way to ensure an orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union”.

The spokesman added: “The backstop is part of the withdrawal agreement, and the withdrawal agreement is not open for re-negotiation.”

In an apparent sign that the EU now fears that the impasse in the Brexit talks is unlikely to be broken within the coming weeks, Tusk’s spokesman said Brussels was open to a delay to Brexit beyond 29 March.

An amendment backed by the Labour MP Yvette Cooper ordering the government to ask for an extension was defeated on Tuesday evening but the Commons is set to vote again in mid-February.

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