EU rules out renegotiations; May's desperate move slammed

BRUSSELS • The European Union has already offered Britain the "best and only possible" Brexit divorce deal and will not renego-tiate it, the European Commission warned yesterday.

The EU's firm statement came ahead of British Prime Minister Theresa May's Parliament address yesterday, where she announced her decision to delay today's key parliamentary vote on her Brexit deal for more talks with the EU.

"Our position has not changed and as far as we are concerned, the United Kingdom is leaving the European Union on the 29th of March 2019," spokesman Mina Andreeva told reporters.

The EU's response came after the European Court of Justice yesterday ruled that Britain had the unilateral right to withdraw its plan to leave the EU, if it so decides, before Brexit day at the end of March.

Mrs May's splintered government had appeared set for a defeat in the parliamentary vote on the draft withdrawal agreement she signed with Brussels last month.

The Northern Irish party that props up Mrs May's Conservative Party yesterday said she needed to renegotiate her Brexit divorce or face being replaced by someone willing to change course.

"What (the EU) need to be faced with is either somebody who is going to really make it clear they are prepared to walk away, or a different Theresa May who will make that explicit," Mr Nigel Dodds, deputy leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, told BBC TV yesterday.

"If anyone needs any further lesson or demonstration on how not to negotiate, look at the shambles today of the government in the House of Commons having to pull a vote on something that they said was the only way forward."

A HOUSE DIVIDED

The government has decided Theresa May's Brexit deal is so disastrous that it has taken the desperate step of delaying its own vote at the eleventh hour... We don't have a functioning government.

LABOUR LEADER JEREMY CORBYN, in a statement.

TOUGHER STANCE NEEDED

What (the EU) need to be faced with is either somebody who is going to really make it clear they are prepared to walk away, or a different Theresa May who will make that explicit.

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE DEMOCRATIC UNIONIST PARTY NIGEL DODDS

NO BETTER DEAL

This deal is the best and only deal possible. We will not renegotiate.

EUROPEAN COMMISSION SPOKESMAN MINA ANDREEVA

Britain's main opposition Labour Party said yesterday the country no longer had "a functioning government", and its plans to leave the EU should now take centre stage in any future talks with the bloc.

"The government has decided Theresa May's Brexit deal is so disastrous that it has taken the desperate step of delaying its own vote at the eleventh hour," Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said in a statement. "Labour's alternative plan for a jobs-first deal must take centre stage in any future talks with Brussels."

Meanwhile, Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon accused the British government of "pathetic cowardice".

"This is a watershed moment and an act of pathetic cowardice by a Tory (Conservative) government which has run out of road and is now collapsing into utter chaos," she said in a statement.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 11, 2018, with the headline 'EU rules out renegotiations; May's desperate move slammed'. Print Edition | Subscribe