Berlin, Dec 11 (IANS) Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday met German Chancellor Angela Merkel here as part of a whistle-stop tour to meet European leaders in an attempt to salvage her Brexit deal, a day after postponing a parliamentary vote on it in the face of overwhelming opposition.
May met fellow conservative politician Merkel in the German capital having travelled from the Hague, where she had a breakfast meeting with her Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte to seek “further assurances” that the Northern Irish backstop would never come into force, though No 10 warned a rapid breakthrough was unlikely.
Head of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk have already said the draft Brexit deal would not be subject to renegotiation but said they were open to give further clarifications on it.
May was due to meet the two top officials later in the day in Brussels.
“We will not renegotiate the deal, including the backstop,” Tusk earlier tweeted, referring to the contested clause in the deal relating to Northern Ireland.
UK Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd said further talks with Brussels would focus on the Brexit “backstop” on the Irish border, which May earlier admitted had caused MPs “widespread and deep concern”.
Conservative Party leader May said on Monday that the decision to delay the vote was made after it became clear she would lose it “by a significant margin”.
According to the Guardian, Downing Street said the vote could be delayed till January, that reduces the time available to pass the necessary legislation to complete the UK’s departure.
A government spokesperson said that May will put her Brexit deal to a vote in the lower house of Parliament before January 21.
Dozens of Conservative MPs had been planning to join forces with the Labour Party, the Scottish National Party, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Democratic Unionist Party to vote down May’s deal, reports said.
The Tory rebels and the DUP do not like the Northern Ireland “backstop”, a legally-binding proposal for a customs arrangement with the EU, which would come into force if the two sides cannot agree a future relationship which avoids the return of customs checkpoints on the Irish border.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn urged May to stand down because her government was now in “chaos”.