UK PM May told ministers she wants legally binding changes to Brexit deal

Tuesday, 2019-02-05 20:14:07
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UK Prime Minister Theresa May
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Prime Minister Theresa May told her top ministers on February 5 her objective was to secure legally binding changes to Britain's EU exit deal to ensure that the country could not be trapped indefinitely in the Northern Irish backstop, her spokesman said.

"The prime minister said that our objective now was to secure a legally binding way of guaranteeing we cannot be trapped indefinitely in the backstop," the spokesman said following a meeting with May's cabinet.

May will use a visit to Brussels on February 7 to update European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on discussions taking place in Britain on alternatives to the backstop, an insurance policy to avoid a hard border in Ireland, he said.

The EU will not renegotiate the divorce deal and the Irish backstop but alternatives could be worked on after Britain leaves, chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier said on February 4.

"The European Union's position is clear," spokesman Margaritis Schinas said. "We are expecting, waiting once again to hear what the prime minister has to tell us."

There is little appetite for a no-deal Brexit in the EU and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the bloc's most powerful leader, has called for creativity to break the Brexit impasse.

"From a political point of view, there is still time," Merkel told an economic conference in Tokyo on February 5.

The United Kingdom is due to leave the EU in just 52 days, yet London and Brussels are arguing over whether the deal clinched in November can be changed, raising the possibility of a delay to Brexit, a last-minute deal or a no-deal exit.

"It could only be a few weeks, until late May or early July. And not that we know that it would get us anywhere. But it would buy us some time," an EU diplomat dealing with Brexit said.