EU leaders tell May to find Brexit consensus among MPs

Friday 14th December 2018 07:12 EST

Leaders of the European Union in Brussels have asked Prime Minister Theresa May to return to the Parliament and find a way to break the Brexit logjam. It appears that an appeal from May for a final concession failed to cut past the 27 heads of state and government. A visibly unimpressed European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called the British debate “nebulous” and directed May to come back with a clear plan.

Video footage from the summit also showed May engaged in a frosty exchange with Juncker who appeared to be trying to calm the agitated PM. The EU leaders have reiterated that they won't renegotiate the deal on the table, and made a direct appeal to British MPs to be “responsible” and offer a way out of the impasse. Denmark Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen said the EU was being “as flexible as we can be. I think it is now up to the British to come together and create a kind of national consensus in order to tell us exactly what to do to get this through the British parliament.”

Luxembourg PM Xavier Bettel said the discussions with May had been an “honest exchange”. “Theresa May is clear, but the fact is that Westminster is not that clear. So we know what Theresa wants, and she wants the best possible deal in Westminster, but the problem is the MPs in London. For internal political reasons some people want to gamble with the relations between the European Union and the UK for the future, and it is bad.” The British government looks to place a duty on both sides in a bid to get out of the Irish backstop within 12 months of it coming into force. The proposal is supported by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. However, it was opposed by Ireland, France, Sweden, Spain, and Belgium, who voiced doubts that May would be able to sell the technical concession to hostile MPs back home.

Kurz was typicall warm to May, stating leaders could still be convinced to provide her with the legal guarantee she sought. “I think that it was good that we told Theresa May once again that we will not reopen the withdrawal agreement. But besides the withdrawal agreement there is a huge understanding on the wish to find a way to deal with Brexit.”

But, EU diplomats said the British PM came to the summit without a plan that Brussels believed could convince enough MPs. The summit communique was less generous to May than earlier drafts.

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