BRUSSELS – Leaders from the European Union’s 28 member states gathered in Brussels on Thursday for a European Council summit where they were to discuss the United Kingdom’s departure from the bloc.
British Prime Minister Theresa May attended the meeting and was expected to ask EU leaders to tweak elements of her Brexit deal in a bid to ensure its safe passage through the UK’s parliament, where it has so far been met with strong opposition, particularly over the Irish backstop, a measure to keep a seamless Irish border should future negotiations between Brussels and London collapse.
“It’s important to avoid ambiguity,” French President Emmanuel Macron said. “We cannot reopen a legal agreement, we cannot renegotiate what has been negotiated for months. We can have a political discussion in that context,” he added.
His comments reflect the line adopted unanimously by the EU’s national leaders.
“I consider the deal to have been very well negotiated and after we will continue debating between us how we move forward,” said Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor. “But naturally we also have our principles and we can’t go back to change it,” she added.
The UK is scheduled to leave the EU on March 29, 2010.
Speaking to reporters in Brussels, May said she did not expect an “immediate breakthrough” on the deal but hoped she would secure enough assurances to quell anger among UK lawmakers.
On Monday, the PM, who rules with a minority, delayed a parliamentary vote on her deal as it faced almost certain defeat.