Brexit: Guy Verhofstadt shreds UK government for delaying vote on Theresa May's deal

European Parliament Brexit chief says he can't follow talks anymore

Jon Stone
Brussels
Monday 10 December 2018 17:08 GMT
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MPs erupt in laughter as Theresa May says she has 'listened carefully to what has been said'

The European Parliament's Brexit chief has blasted the UK government for delaying Tuesday's planned vote on Theresa May's deal.

Guy Verhofstadt said he could barely follow the thread of politics in the UK and that it was time for Britain to make up its mind on whether to accept the withdrawal agreement.

The Brexit co-ordinator's comments echo the feelings of many in Brussels who were shocked by the UK's decision to suspend the parliamentary showdown, which the Government was expected to lose by a large margin.

"I can’t follow anymore. After two years of negotiations, the Tory government wants to delay the vote," Mr Verhofstadt said.

"Just keep in mind that we will never let the Irish down. This delay will further aggravate the uncertainty for people & businesses. It’s time they make up their mind!"

The intervention comes as Commons speaker John Bercow described the decision, apparently taken by the prime minister this morning, as "discourteous".

The Independent understands that a forthcoming debate in the European Parliament scheduled for Wednesday to discuss the Brexit deal could be cancelled if the UK Government calls off its own vote. Sources say there would be nothing to discuss if the Commons division does not take place.

Officials at the EU's parliament however said their debate was still due to go ahead as of Monday afternoon.

The Prime Minister's chief Brexit negotiator Olly Robbins returned to Brussels on Monday and was spotted in the European Commission headquarters – apparently trying to seek concessions on the deal.

An MEPs debate on the Brexit deal could be cancelled
An MEPs debate on the Brexit deal could be cancelled (AFP/Getty)

But a European Commission spokesperson told reporters in the EU capital on Monday afternoon: “We have an agreement on the table that was endorsed by the European Council in its Article 50 format on the 25 November. As President Juncker said, this deal is the best and only deal possible.

“We will not renegotiate, our position has not changed, and as far as we are concerned the United Kingdom is leaving the European Union on 29 March 2019.”

Ireland's prime minister Leo Varadkar also said in Dublin on Monday: “The withdrawal agreement, including the Irish backstop is the only agreement on the table. It’s not possible to reopen any aspect of that agreement without reopening all aspects."

The Taoiseach, who has been central to Brexit talks due to the Irish border issue, left open the possibility that EU leaders could agreed to a side-declaration on the deal clarifying aspects of it.

But he warned that "no statement of clarification can contradict what’s in the withdrawal agreement".

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