May heads to Brussels for Brexit crisis talks

Marco Green
February 20, 2019

If Britain asks for a delay to its departure from the European Union, none of the existing members will stand in its way, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Tuesday.

The Malthouse Compromise, championed by Conservative lawmakers from the party's pro- and anti-EU wings, seeks to use technology to replace the backstop, an insurance policy created to stop a return to a hard border between EU-member Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK. "We will have a friendly talk tomorrow but I don't expect a breakthrough", Juncker said Tuesday.

The EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, will brief the College of Commissioners of the latest developments and will stress that the aim of Wednesday's meeting is to find a formula that will be supported by the House of Commons.

But Lord Callanan said: "The Prime Minister has been very clear that we intend to leave on March 29, that's what Article 50 says and that's what our domestic legislation says".

"I don't think it's the mechanism that matters, it's the objective", he told the BBC's Andrew Marr.

But the European Union is adamant the other 27 member countries won't reopen the already negotiated divorce deal. "Tomorrow is obviously a significant meeting between the prime minister and President Juncker as part of that process", he said.

"The EU 27 will not reopen the withdrawal agreement, we can not accept a time limit to the backstop or a unilateral exit clause", said Margaritis Schinas, spokesman for the EU's executive European Commission.

The EU refuses to budge and says the 585-page legal Brexit agreement is a take-it-or-leave-it document.

"There is a process of engagement going on". The mechanism, known as the backstop, is a safeguard that would keep the United Kingdom in a customs union with the EU to remove the need for checks along the Irish border until a permanent new trading relationship is in place.

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox will travel to Brussels with the Prime Minister today to present new legal proposals in order to break the impasse over the Irish backstop.

Instead, he directed reporters to a statement issued by the Department for Exiting the European Union following Stephen Barclay's meeting with Mr Barnier, confirming that they had discussed the Malthouse compromise.

She has promised parliament to rework the treaty to try to put a time limit on the protocol or give Britain some other way of getting out of an arrangement which her critics say would leave the country "trapped" by the EU.

"We agreed to keep exploring the use of alternative arrangements - especially how they might be developed to ensure the absence of a hard border in Northern Ireland on a permanent footing, avoiding the need for the backstop to ever enter force". After their talks with Mrs May, the chairman of the European Research Group of eurosceptic Tories, Jacob Rees-Mogg, and his deputy Steve Baker said in a joint statement: 'The Malthouse Compromise is alive and kicking.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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