BRUSSELS – British Prime Minister Theresa May said she did not expect to find an immediate solution on the Irish backstop in her Brexit deal during her talks in Brussels on Thursday, but hoped she could secure the assurances necessary to soothe discontent over the measure in the United Kingdom’s parliament before it is submitted to a vote.
May spoke to reporters ahead of a European Council meeting where she seeks to improve elements the UK’s withdrawal agreement with the European Union, specifically a stipulation aimed at maintaining a soft border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in the event of a no deal Brexit, in order to quell opposition among lawmakers in the House of Commons, the lower parliamentary chamber.
“I don’t expect an immediate breakthrough,” she said upon her arrival in the Belgian capital. “But what I do hope is that we can start to work as quickly as possible on the assurances that are necessary,” she added.
Some lawmakers rejected the backstop on the basis that legal information on the measure suggested it could be extended indefinitely while others, especially a right-wing Northern Irish party that props up the government, fear it could effectively place a customs border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
The Conservative Party leader beat a motion of no confidence lodged by rebellious members of her own party late Wednesday when 200 Members of Parliament voted in her support.
But 117 Tories voted against her, damaging her authority in the Commons, where her party governs as a minority.
She confirmed Thursday that she would step down ahead of the next general election, slated for 2022.
“In my heart, I would love to be able to lead the Conservative Party into the next general elections, but I think it is right that the party feels it would prefer to go into that election with a new leader,” she said.
May was in the heart of the EU in search of concessions to boost her chances of pushing her Brexit plan through the Commons.
She deferred a crucial vote scheduled for Tuesday when it became apparent the withdrawal agreement would not get the support needed from the House.
A new vote is scheduled to take place before Jan. 21, just shy of two months before the UK is to leave the bloc.
UK voters chose to leave the EU in a June 2016 referendum