Evening Standard

Brexit news: Jean-Claude Juncker 'not expecting breakthrough' in blow to PM ahead of fresh talks in Brussels

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 19/02/2019 23:20:38 Sophie Williams
a man wearing a suit and tie: Theresa May stares down European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (AFP/Getty Images) © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media LimitedTheresa May stares down European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (AFP/Getty Images)

Jean-Claude Juncker has once again dashed hopes of renegotiating Theresa May's Brexit deal struck last year, saying he "does not expect a breakthrough" ahead of fresh talks in Brussels tomorrow.

The PM is looking for concessions that will enable her to get her deal through Parliament after it was comprehensively rejected by MPs in last month's "meaningful vote".

The European Commission president's deputy chief spokesperson Mina Andreeva quoted Mr Juncker in a tweet saying: "I have the greatest respect for Theresa May, for her courage and her assertiveness.

"We will have friendly talks tomorrow but I don't expect a breakthrough."

His comments come as Mrs May this evening met with members of a working group seeking a compromise on the controversial Brexit backstop.

Members of the Malthouse compromise group - which brings together MPs from the Leave and Remain wings of the Conservative Party - met in the prime minister's rooms in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

Theresa May sitting on a bench in front of a car: Mrs May met with the group on Tuesday evening (PA) © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media LimitedMrs May met with the group on Tuesday evening (PA)

The compromise is seen by many Brexiteers as a means to get rid of the backstop arrangements which they fear will subject the UK to EU rules indefinitely after withdrawal.

The plan would replace the backstop with a free trade agreement along with technological methods for keeping the Irish border open after Brexit.

If this was not acceptable to Brussels, a Plan B would see the UK leave without a deal but with a transition period extended to the end of 2021 to allow time to prepare.

a man wearing a suit and tie: Mrs May will meet with Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday (Thierry Monasse/Getty Images) © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media LimitedMrs May will meet with Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday (Thierry Monasse/Getty Images)

The PM's official spokesman declined to respond to reports that Mrs May told Cabinet the Malthouse plan would not form part of proposals she will put to Mr Juncker on Wednesday.

Instead, he pointed reporters to a statement issued by the Department for Exiting the EU following Stephen Barclay's meeting with Michel Barnier, confirming that they had discussed the Malthouse Compromise.

The statement said: "While the Commission engaged seriously with these proposals, it expressed concerns about their viability to resolve the backstop.

Jacob Rees-Mogg wearing glasses: Jacob Rees-Mogg said in a statement that the compromise was © Provided by Local News RSS EN-GBJacob Rees-Mogg said in a statement that the compromise was

"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."

The statement sparked speculation that the Malthouse plan was being taken off the table.

But 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.

"The Secretary of State for Exiting the EU can provide details. We look forward to further developments. We look forward to further precision about exactly what we will be asked to vote for."

Ahead of his meeting with the Prime Minister on Wednesday, Mr Juncker said he could not rule out an extension to Article 50 which would keep the UK in the EU beyond European Parliament elections due in the spring.

Mr Juncker told a press conference in Stuttgart that the UK could ask for an extension "tomorrow" and he expected it would be greeted "positively" by other EU governments.

Additional reporting by PA.

20. helmikuuta 2019 1:20:38 Categories: Evening Standard La Tribune

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