The EU has warned that the UK faces the same Brexit deal questions as ever, regardless of who is prime minister.
“Nothing has changed” with respect to the status of the Withdrawal Agreement signed off by Theresa May and the 27 other leaders after protracted negotiations, confirmed the European Commission.
The European Union has repeatedly said it would not reopen the legal text of the agreement.
Former Brexit secretary David Davis seemed unaware of this, saying on BBC Radio 4’s World at One that the next prime minister should go back to Brussels to persuade the EU to drop the Northern Ireland backstop.
“I think they will be willing to talk to us,” he said.
“They are all very concerned about the impact on the European economy of a no-deal.
“If we go back, I think we have got a decent chance of negotiating but we have also got to be ready to undertake no deal if it is absolutely forced on us.”
Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker “followed Prime Minister May’s announcement this morning without personal joy”, said Brussels spokeswoman Mina Andreeva.
“The president very much liked and appreciated working with Prime Minister May, and has said before, Theresa May is a woman of courage for whom he has great respect,” she added.
“He will equally respect and establish working relations with any new prime minister, whomever they may be, without stopping his conversations with prime minister May.”
But she stressed: “We have set out our position on the Withdrawal Agreement and on the political declaration.
“The European Commission and the Article 50 format has set out its position and we remain available for anyone who will be the new prime minister.”
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte stressed that the Withdrawal Agreement reached with the EU “remains on the table”.
Manfred Weber, an ally of German chancellor Angela Merkel and the centre-right’s lead candidate to replace Juncker after the European elections, said Brexit was a “total disaster” but Mrs May “fought for a stable solution and a viable deal”.
Mrs Merkel’s spokeswoman, Martina Fietz, said the German chancellor noted May’s decision “with respect” and would continue to work closely with her successor for “an orderly exit.”
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, expressed his “full respect” for May and her “determination” to reach a Brexit deal.