The European Commission’s secretary general has said that ‘nobody’ on the EU side is considering legally-binding assurances to help get Theresa May’s unloved Brexit deal through Parliament.
Martin Selmayr said that a meeting in Brussels with members of the Commons Brexit committee had confirmed that the EU was right to have begun preparations for a no-deal Brexit.
May had planned to return to Brussels later this week in a bid to get assurances on the Irish border backstop which would allow her to sell her withdrawal agreement to hardline Brexiteers in her parliamentary party.
But responding to reports that the committee’s MPs had been told that Brussels was ready to consider legally-binding assurances, Selmayr said in a tweet: ‘On the EU side, nobody is considering this.
‘Asked whether any assurance would help to get the Withdrawal Agreement through the Commons, the answers of MPs were… inconclusive.
‘The meeting confirmed that the EU did well to start its no-deal preparations in December 2017.’
Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake, a supporter of the anti-Brexit campaign group Best for Britain, said: ‘The news that the EU won’t offer legally binding assurances on the backstop isn’t news.
‘Our prime minister knew this when she kicked the can down the road again last week.
‘She must stop playing chicken with No Deal, make a statement tomorrow, allow votes on Wednesday, so Parliament can grab the steering-wheel on Thursday, before we career off the cliff.’
The news comes as the Dutch foreign minister said another outcome to the withdrawal agreement was ‘not realistic’ during a visit to the Irish border.
Stef Blok travelled to Co Louth today to learn more about the implications of a no-deal Brexit on border communities and said hearing first hand the effects of the Troubles ‘was very different’ from reading about it.
‘The backstop is not there because the European Union asked for it, but because the UK has drawn a number of red lines,’ Blok said.
‘It is the result of more than two years of negotiations, so after two-and-a-half years of negotiations, it’s not very realistic to expect that there will be a completely different outcome.
‘The EU has shown unity throughout negotiations and there is no reason to change that unity, we are willing to listen to any proposals made by the UK, but until now there haven’t been any specific proposals.
‘This is a border that is not really a border, it’s like something you would see between two municipalities.
‘I have heard from people who have lived here all their life, there was violence, their lives were influenced by the situation here and they don’t want to return to it.’
Irish minister of state for European affairs Helen McEntee and representatives from InterTradeIreland and Co-operation Ireland joined Blok on the visit.
‘We’ve always said that we will take on board any proposal, but we’ve spent two years looking at every possibility and what we have come up with is the backstop,’ McEntee said.
‘We’re almost two weeks on from the vote, and we are yet to see any proposals that we believe would work.
‘To ask Ireland to compromise now from what we see as an integral part is like asking us to compromise on the Good Friday Agreement, to compromise on the peace we have collectively achieved.
‘This is not about scaremongering, this is about protecting peace which has taken 20 years to develop which is still very fragile.’
Ireland’s deputy prime minister Simon Coveney will host a bilateral dinner for Blok this evening to discuss Brexit and other global issues.
Mrs May is also expected to visit Belfast tomorrow.