European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker was unequivocal in his message to UK Prime Minister Theresa May on January 30, telling the embattled British leader that bloc’s divorce deal with the United Kingdom will not be renegotiated under any circumstances.
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, also took time out to slam the British government and accuse May of violating the spirit of an agreement that she helped draft.
“She took distance (sic) from an agreement (that) she herself negotiated and one with which we had agreed,” Barnier said, before adding that the UK government was “explicitly supporting” calls for a change to the deal where the backstop would be replaced by alternative arrangements that were never defined in the negotiations.
By Barnier’s assessment, the agreement on the table remains the only “lucid and realistic” approach. At this point, Barnier took the opportunity to take aim at both of May’s former Brexit secretaries, Dominic Raab and David Davis, whom he said were trying to lay the blame for the current situation on Brussels.
“When I hear some people who were even part and parcel of the negotiations saying what they’re saying, it’s tough. I find it hard to accept this blame game they’re trying to play against us,” said Barnier. Earlier in the day, Barnier had met with the European Parliament’s lead negotiator, Guy Verhofstadt, who also said that the Irish backstop is not up for discussion.
Verhofstadt, one of the EU’s most vociferous defenders, did not, however, close the door on the possibility of discussing with the UK the future relationship between the two sides.
The European Institutions will now wait for the UK’s next move. EU officials have also said that they do not expect May to arrive in Brussels for more discussions in the coming weeks without a better hand to play in any future talks.