May to Meet EU's Juncker in Brussels on Thursday: Brexit Update

(Bloomberg) -- Theresa May will meet European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels on Thursday, as she seeks changes to the divorce deal.

Key Developments:

  • May to meet Juncker and EU Council President Donald Tusk in Brussels on Thursday
  • May says she will seek only changes to backstop; Parliament told her to scrap it
  • DUP’s Foster says backstop is ‘toxic’ and must be replaced

May Seeks Only ‘Changes’ to Backstop (3:15 p.m.)

Theresa May said she could not get a Brexit deal through the House of Commons with the current backstop plan for the Irish border -- but she stopped short of promising to scrap the policy entirely.

"I can only get a deal through Parliament if legal changes are made to the backstop," the premier told an audience in Belfast. Reinforcing the point that she’s seeking reform, not abolition, she later said she understood the “prospect of changing the backstop” creates anxieties in Northern Ireland.

This approach is likely to anger pro-Brexit Tories who believe the Commons voted to replace the backstop with alternative arrangements, such as new technology, to achieve the same goal of no hard border between the U.K. and the Irish Republic.

Ireland Says ‘Managed No-Deal’ Doesn’t Exist (2:45 p.m.)

Irish Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe told lawmakers on Tuesday what has become known as a “managed no-deal Brexit” by some Brexit backers doesn’t in fact exist from the EU’s perspective. It’s a reiteration of the bloc’s position that the U.K. can’t be allowed to mitigate the impact of leaving the EU without an agreement via series of so-called mini deals in key sectors like aviation.

May Not Expected to Meet Barnier in Brussels (12:50 p.m.)

Prime Minister Theresa May is not expected to meet the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, in Brussels on Thursday, a U.K. official told reporters. During Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting, about 45 minutes to an hour was spent on Brexit, the official said.

Cabinet Focused on Irish Backstop (12:40 p.m.)

May’s spokesman, James Slack, said Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting focused on the so-called Irish backstop ahead of the premier’s trip to Brussels. May warned ministers that talks with the EU won’t be easy, according to Slack, but that the backstop was an issue for the main opposition Labour Party as well as the DUP and Conservatives, and must be resolved.

The government is treating the so-called Malthouse compromise -- which calls for the backstop to be replaced with a technology-based solution to the Irish border -- as a matter of urgency, Slack said. The same applies to other options discussed in Cabinet: a time limit to the backstop, and the U.K. securing a unilateral exit mechanism from the provision.

May also reiterated during the meeting that the U.K. must leave the EU on March 29, Slack said, and that Parliament had made it clear it would not support a second referendum on Brexit. The government plans to hold a meaningful vote on a Brexit deal in Parliament as soon as possible, he said.

May will stay in Northern Ireland following her speech at 3 p.m., and will hold meetings with political parties in the region on Wednesday, Slack said. That means her de facto deputy, David Lidington, will take Prime Minister’s Questions in Parliament in her place.

May to Meet Juncker on Thursday (11:35 a.m.)

May will hold Brexit talks with European Union officials in Brussels on Thursday, an EU spokesman said.

May will meet European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, his spokesman, Margaritis Schinas told reporters. “The prime minister will come along to spell out her ideas to us about what comes next,” he said. “The EU’s position is clear and indeed we are waiting once again to hear what the prime minister has to tell us.”


©2019 Bloomberg L.P.