Brussels last-ditch mission to save deal
BRUSSELS’ most senior Eurocrats are set to publish two letters tomorrow in a last-ditch effort to help Theresa May get her Brexit deal through the Commons.
The Mail on Sunday understands EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and EU Council president Donald Tusk will each send a separate letter designed to reassure MPs over the controversial ‘backstop’ measure that could see the UK locked to EU rules indefinitely.
But the correspondence is likely to fall far short of the demands of Tory Brexit rebels who want the Prime Minister to reopen talks with the EU to rip out the fallback from the terms of her withdrawal agreement.
Brussels sources say that Mr Juncker’s letter will vow to ‘expedite’ trade talks between the EU and the UK to try to avoid the ‘backstop’ ever being triggered.
He will set out a process for a new trade deal to be done as quickly as possible but is unlikely to include a date for talks to start.
Meanwhile, Mr Tusk will reiterate the 27 other EU countries have a ‘firm determination’ to have a new relationship with Britain in place by the end of 2020 to avoid the measure kicking in.
He will add that if the deal is not ready by that point, all European states will work to have it signed by 2021 at the latest, meaning the UK would only have to shadow EU trade and customs rules for an additional year.
Last night Downing Street insiders said they expected the letters to be published on Monday evening for maximum impact ahead of Tuesday’s Commons showdown.
Even with a trickle of Tory MPs climbing down from their opposition to Mrs May’s deal, she is on course for an defeat of historic proportions. After three full days of debate, Mrs May’s allies are braced for a thumping defeat, with efforts focused on keeping the tally to ‘under three figures’.
Mrs May will likely address MPs and the public late on Tuesday evening or early on Wednesday, with Ministers expecting her to announce yet another trip to Brussels to try to squeeze more concessions from the EU.
Officials in Brussels, Dublin and London are all said to be ‘acutely aware’ that the backstop is the last major sticking point to a deal being done, with the Irish government expected to come under increased pressure to soften their objections to the measure being watered down.
But last night Brussels sources said in response to the likely defeat, attention would instead begin by focusing on a rewriting of the nonlegally binding political declaration that sets out EU and UK hopes for future trade arrangements rather than reopening the withdrawal agreement treaty on the terms of divorce.
LETTERS: Juncker with EU negotiator Michel Barnier