Embattled British Prime Minister Theresa May faced sympathy but firm refusals on a desperate tour of European capitals on Tuesday, with EU leaders ruling out any renegotiation of the Brexit deal.
A day after she postponed a crucial vote on the deal in the British parliament, May said she was meeting EU counterparts in an attempt to receive “reassurances”.
May had breakfast with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in The Hague before heading to Berlin for lunch with Chancellor Angela Merkel and then travelled on to Brussels.
After meeting May, Merkel told lawmakers of her CDU/CSU bloc that she saw “no way to change” the agreement, said sources at the MPs’ meeting.
May faced criticism from all sides in parliament over provisions in the EU withdrawal agreement concerning Northern Ireland, which she hopes could persuade her rebellious Conservative party to support it.
European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said ahead of meeting May that he was “surprised” at being asked for more talks since EU leaders had given their approval to the deal at an extraordinary summit on November 25.
“The deal we have achieved is the best deal possible, it’s the only deal possible,” he told the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
“There is no room whatsoever for renegotiation but of course there is room if used intelligently, to give further clarification and further interpretations.”
– ‘Govern or quit’ –
MPs in the House of Commons were due to vote on the deal on Tuesday night, but May deferred it on Monday, admitting she expected to lose by a “significant margin”.
Her spokesman on Tuesday said the vote would be rescheduled before January 21 — just months before Britain leaves the EU on March 29.
Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is now facing calls to table a no-confidence vote in the prime minister, but is holding off as the party believes May is likely to win.
This hesitation has caused tensions with the Scottish National Party (SNP), which has said it wants Labour to table a no-confidence motion on Tuesday.
Eurosceptic MPs in May’s Conservative party have also repeated calls for her to be replaced, with one warning it was time to “govern or quit”.
EU President Donald Tusk, who met May in Brussels, has called a meeting of the other 27 EU leaders on Thursday to discuss the latest Brexit developments.
They were already due to attend a European Council summit with May on Thursday and Friday, which the British prime minister is expected to use to further press her case.