Theresa May has promised to take a more “flexible, open and inclusive” approach to involve Parliament in negotiating a future relationship with the EU as she seeks to revive her Withdrawal Agreement.
The Prime Minister said she would conduct further talks this week on the controversial Brexit backstop to find an arrangement to take back to Brussels that meets obligations to the people of Northern Ireland and Ireland “in a way that can command the greatest possible support in the House”.
In a statement to the House of Commons, the PM also offered a guarantee that workers’ rights and environmental safeguards would not be eroded as a result of Brexit. And she scrapped the £65 fee for EU nationals wishing to remaining in the UK with “settled status”.
Mrs. May again voiced her opposition to delaying or halting the UK’s planned departure from the EU on March 29, telling MPs she did not believe there was a majority in the Commons for a second referendum.
And she refused to take a “no deal” Brexit off the table, saying the only way to do this was either to agree a deal or to revoke the Article 50 withdrawal process, which she was not willing to do. Mrs. May was addressing MPs after holding cross-party talks in the wake of the overwhelming rejection of her Withdrawal Agreement by the Commons last week.
Insisting the Government approached the talks “in a constructive spirit”, Mrs. May said she regretted Jeremy Corbyn’s decision to boycott them. But Mr. Corbyn dismissed the talks as “phony”, telling MPs: “The Prime Minister must change her red lines, because her current deal is undeliverable.”
Mrs. May’s statement came as Poland broke ranks with the rest of the European Union by suggesting that the Brexit deadlock could be ended by putting a five-year time limit on the controversial “backstop”.
The Prime Minister emphatically dismissed reports that she was considering rewriting the Good Friday Agreement to neutralize the issue.
Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney met chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels on Monday and said he received assurances that the EU remains “firmly supportive” of the Withdrawal Agreement in full, including its guarantees of no hard border in Ireland.
Mr Barnier himself said: “We are working 27 as a team, a single team and we negotiate as one.”
But Poland’s foreign minister Jacek Czaputowicz signaled a different approach from Warsaw, telling the Rzeczpospolita newspaper: “If Ireland asked the EU to amend the agreement with the British on the backstop so that it would apply temporarily – let’s say five years – the matter would be solved.
“It would obviously be less favorable for Ireland than an indefinite backstop, but much more advantageous than no-deal Brexit.”
Mr. Czaputowicz said that London and Dublin were “playing chicken” over the border and risked a “head-on collision” in which Ireland stood to “lose the most”.
In her statement, Mrs. May said: “I will be talking further this week to colleagues – including in the DUP – to consider how we might meet our obligations to the people of Northern Ireland and Ireland in a way that can command the greatest possible support in the House. “And I will then take the conclusions of those discussions back to the EU.”