London: Embattled British Prime Minister Theresa May launched a tour of European capitals on Tuesday in a desperate bid to salvage her Brexit deal, a day after delaying a parliamentary vote on the text to avoid a crushing defeat.
May held talks in The Hague with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte before heading to Berlin to meet Chancellor Angela Merkel as she struggles to unite British lawmakers behind her faltering plan.
She was then to see EU President Donald Tusk and European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels.
“I’m surprised because we had reached an agreement on the 25th of November” at the last EU summit, Juncker told the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday, dubbing Brexit a “surprise guest” at this week’s summit.
“The deal we have achieved is the best deal possible; it’s the only deal possible. There is no room whatsoever for renegotiation but of course there is room if used intelligently, to give further clarification and further interpretations,” he said.
Tusk said the other 27 EU leaders would discuss Brexit at a special meeting on Thursday, at the start of a pre-planned summit in Brussels which May will attend.
The embattled May is facing a rebellion in her own party and from parliamentary allies over a clause in the deal relating to Northern Ireland that is threatening to sink both the agreement and her leadership.
“I will now do everything I possibly can to secure further assurances,” May told mutinous MPs Monday on her dash to Europe ahead of the EU summit.
If no deal is secured, Britain will still have to leave the EU on Mar 29 with the government warning a no-deal Brexit will be hugely damaging to the economy.
MPs had been due to vote on Tuesday on the deal with Brussels, which covers the terms of Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union after 46 years.
But facing a huge rebellion of her own Tory MPs, primarily over the backstop clause designed to keep open Britain’s border with Ireland, May conceded she expected to lose and delayed it.
The decision sent the pound plunging and both sides said they would step up preparations for a no-deal Brexit.