The withdrawal agreement for Britain to leave the EU is “not open for renegotiation,” European Council president Donald Tusk has said.
He made the announcement at a press conference late last night, despite claims by Theresa May that she needs to get MPs’ backing on her Brexit plans before they can be finalised.
Yesterday the Prime Minister addressed representatives of the 27 European Union member states, before they held a working dinner without her.
Afterwards, Mr Tusk addressed journalists in Brussels and said: “Today Prime Minister May informed the leaders about the difficulties with ratifying the deal in London and asked for further assurances that would at least, in her view, unlock the ratification process in the House of Commons.
“After discussing the Prime Minister’s intervention among the 27 leaders, and bearing in mind our full respect of the parliamentary process in the United Kingdom, we have agreed the following.
“First, the European Council reconfirmed its conclusions of November 25 2018 in which it endorsed the withdrawal agreement and approved the political declaration.
“The union stands by this agreement and intends to proceed with its ratification.”
He added: “It is not open for renegotiation.”
Meanwhile European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker urged the UK to tell the EU what it wants in the future relationship.
And he warned that there is still a possibility of a “no deal” Brexit.
“We also think that in terms of the future relationship, our UK friends need to say what they want, instead of asking us to say what we want,” he said.
“And so we would like, within a few weeks, our UK friends to set out their expectations for us because this debate is sometimes nebulous and imprecise and I would like clarifications.
“As we don’t know what the collective reactions will be from the Europe 27 and the UK, the commission on December 19 will publish all the information that is generally useful for the preparation of no deal.”
The pair also discussed the uncertainty surrounding a backstop deal – the “last resort” for maintaining an open border in Ireland if a deal covering all bases is not reached.
Mr Tusk said the council “underlines that the backstop is intended as an insurance policy.”
He added: “It is the union’s firm determination to work speedily on a subsequent agreement that establishes by December 31 2020 alternative arrangements so that the backstop will not need to be triggered.”
Mr Tusk also noted that the backstop will “apply temporarily” unless another agreement which ensures a hard border is avoided.
“In such a case, the union would use its best endeavours to negotiate and conclude expeditiously a subsequent agreement that would replace the backstop,” he said.
“And we would expect the same of the United Kingdom so that the backstop would only be in place for as long as strictly necessary.”
Mr Juncker added that he was “still of the opinion that Mrs May is fighting hard and bravely but we have not seen results.”
“We would like a peaceful relationship with the UK for the years (to come) but in particular we don’t want the UK to think there can be any form of renegotiation whatsoever.
“We can add some clarifications… but there will be no renegotiations.”