Britain is to have talks with the EU over the coming days about how to obtain “further assurances” which might persuade MPs to back the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, Theresa May has said.
In a press conference at the end of a European Council summit in Brussels, the Prime Minister acknowledged that it would not be possible to reopen the agreement to alter the backstop provisions which have sparked mass rebellion among Tory MPs.
She confirmed she had a “robust” discussion with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and insisted she had been “crystal clear” about the UK’s need for firmer assurances that the backstop cannot become permanent.
Video footage of the conversation showed a clearly angry PM apparently berating Mr Juncker for saying that her address to leaders of the 27 remaining states on Thursday evening had been “nebulous”.
She told the press conference: “I had a robust discussion with Jean-Claude Juncker - I think that’s the sort of discussion you’re able to have when you have developed a working relationship and you work well together.
“And what came out of that was his clarity that actually he’d been talking - when he used that particular phrase - he’d been talking about a general level of debate.”
Mrs May welcomed the official conclusions issued by the EU27 which committed the EU to trying to get a post-Brexit trade deal agreed quickly enough to avoid the need for a backstop to keep the Irish border open.
“As formal conclusions, these commitments have legal status and therefore should be welcomed,” she said.
But she added: “The EU is clear, as I am, that if we are going to leave with a deal, this is it.
“But my discussions with colleagues today have shown that further clarification and discussion following the council’s conclusions is in fact possible.
“There is work still to do and we will be holding talks in coming days about how to obtain the further assurances that the UK Parliament needs in order to be able to approve the deal.”