British Prime Minister Theresa May said Monday she was seeking further EU Brexit assurances in a bid to persuade MPs to back her unpopular deal in a crucial vote next week, while the bloc repeated it would not renegotiate.
Parliament returned from its Christmas break ready to resume debating the withdrawal deal struck in November, before a vote in the House of Commons next week, possibly on January 15.
May postponed the vote last month because of intense opposition to the agreement from MPs, but there is little sign yet of the clarifications she promised to secure from EU leaders.
The stakes could hardly be higher as the clock ticks down to Brexit on March 29, when Britain, the world’s fifth-biggest economy, splits from its main trading partner.
“We are continuing to work on further assurances, on further undertakings from the European Union,” May said after talks with the Dutch, French, German, Spanish and EU leaders over the holidays.
A government source said these assurances may not be ready before MPs resume debating the Brexit deal on Wednesday, but are expected by the time of the vote.
However Margaritis Schinas, the spokesman for the European Commission, said: “There are no negotiations, because all we have on the table is what we consider given, acquired and approved.”
He added: “We must await events, the ratification process on the British side.”
The Brexit deal took nearly two years to negotiate and only covers separation issues, leaving open the future relationship, but it has provoked anger on all sides in London.
May survived a confidence vote in her own party over the agreement in December, but her Brexit-backing MPs are still in open revolt, while the opposition Labour party is angling for new elections.
May warned on Sunday that rejecting her deal next week would put Britain “in uncharted territory”.
Labour wants to renegotiate the agreement, but some Brexit supporters say there is nothing to be feared from leaving the EU with no deal at all.