EU President Jean-Claude Juncker has insisted that the terms of the Brexit withdrawal agreement is “not open for renegotiation” in a joint statement with Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar of Ireland.
The statement says that the withdrawal agreement were negotiated between the EU and the UK “in good faith”, and was agreed by “all 27” member states, as well as by Theresa May.
“The Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration have been negotiated in good faith and have been agreed by all 27 Leaders of the European Union Member States as well as by the United Kingdom Government.
“As we have said on many occasions, the Withdrawal Agreement is the best and only deal possible. It is not open for renegotiation.”
The main crux of their statement was to reiterate that the backstop in Ireland would not be removed as part of any new deal, saying it is a “balanced compromise” and “integral” to the withdrawal agreement.
“The backstop is an integral part of the Withdrawal Agreement. While we hope the backstop will not need to be used, it is a necessary legal guarantee to protect peace and to ensure there will be no return to a hard border on the island of Ireland, while protecting the integrity of our Single Market and the Customs Union.
“The Withdrawal Agreement, including the backstop, is a balanced compromise, representing a good outcome for citizens and businesses on all sides, including in Northern Ireland.
“The backstop is not a bilateral issue, but a European one. Ireland’s border is also the border of the European Union and its market is part of the Single Market. We will stay united on this matter.”
Juncker said that he is prepared to work with the UK for the “orderly withdrawal” from the EU, but has said that they will also step up their preparation for a no deal exit.
“We will continue to seek agreement on the orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom but we will also step up our preparation for a no-deal scenario. In this context, programmes that provide support for cross-border peace and reconciliation in the border counties of Ireland and Northern Ireland will be continued and strengthened.”
Juncker also insisted that the EU supports Ireland, and will continue to do so. He also reminded the UK government of their responsibilities under the Good Friday Agreement, “with or without a deal”.