President Jean-Claude Juncker and Chief Negotiator for Article 50 Negotiations, Michel Barnier spoke this afternoon at the European Parliament’s Plenary session debate on the latest state of play concerning the Article 50 negotiations with the United Kingdom. They provided a reaction to the vote in the House of Commons last night.
President Juncker said: “The Withdrawal Agreement remains the best and only deal possible. The European Union said so in November. We said so in December. We said so after the first meaningful vote in the Commons in January. The debate and votes in the House of Commons yesterday do not change that. The Withdrawal Agreement will not be renegotiated.”
President Juncker also underlined during the debate: “Both sides have said loud and clear that there can be no return to a hard border on the island of Ireland. No slipping back into darker times past. I believe the Prime Minister’s personal commitment on this point. But I also believe that we need a safety net that secures us against this risk. We have no incentive nor desire to use the safety net. But at the same time, no safety net can ever truly be safe if it can just be removed at any time.”
Speaking to Members of the European Parliament at the plenary session in Brussels today, Chief Negotiator Barnier said: “The backstop – as embodied in the Withdrawal Agreement – is the result of extremely intense negotiations held over the course of two years, by us with the United Kingdom, never against the United Kingdom. The backstop is part of the Withdrawal Agreement and this agreement will not be renegotiated. I therefore find it hard to accept that some British MPs are now engaging in a blame game.”
The full speeches of President Juncker and the Commission’s Chief Negotiator Barnier are available here.