Just a day before British Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to arrive in Brussels to discuss the current situation regarding the UK’s exit from the EU, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told reporters that May is well-aware of the fact that the Withdrawal Agreement that she helped author was not open for renegotiation.
“She knows that the Commission is not prepared to reopen the issue,” said Juncker, who suggested that the provision in the agreement which maintains an open border on the island of Ireland in the event that the UK leaves the EU without an agreement in place – known commonly as the Irish backstop – is needed.
“The backstop is a guarantee for Ireland and it is a guarantee for the EU because the Irish border is a European border,” added Juncker, who added that the EU would not, under any circumstances, reopen negotiations on the UK’s withdrawal.
Ireland’s head of state, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, echoed Juncker’s comments while at the same time remaining optimistic that a deal can be made before the March 29 Brexit date.
According to Varadkar, the EU is not to blame for a ‘no-deal’ outcome and reminded those in attendance that the March 29 deadline is a date set by the UK government. The EU is open to the possibility of a British request to extend or revoke Article 50, said Varadkar in reference to the mechanism that acts as the legal framework to quit the bloc.
Both Varadkar and Juncker dismissed unconfirmed claims that an alternative to the backstop was in place, with the former saying that any alternative arrangement “cannot be done in such a way that it deletes the backstop.”
Varadkar later announced that May would visit Dublin on February 8 for Brexit talks.