Letter offers assurance that the Brexit backstop only …

Letter provides assurance that the Brexit backstop is only temporary

Press Association

The heads of the European Union have sent Theresa May a letter in which they confirm that Brussels does not want the so-called "backstop" to remain permanent after the Brexit.

But President Donald Tusk of the European Council and President Jean-Claude Juncker of the European Commission stressed that they "were not able" to rewrite or amend the withdrawal agreement that was set by Ms. May last year.

The letter ends on Tuesday's vote on the agreement in the House of Commons, while the prime minister makes an offer of eleven hours to secure the support of MPs for her deal.

Many conservative MPs are threatening to rebel Tuesday because of their concerns that the UK is permanently stuck in the backstop schemes – designed to avoid a hard border in Ireland and to respect some EU rules – and not to withdraw without the approval of Brussels.

In a letter to Mr Tusk and Mr Juncker asking for additional commitments, Ms May wrote: "The clarifications and commitments proposed in this letter correspond to the letter and spirit of the deal we have achieved, but would further reassurance that the fears on both sides are misplaced. "

In their response, the EU presidents declared that they regarded the withdrawal agreement as a "fair compromise" which would limit "the negative effects of Brexit".

Donald Tusk said that the EU & # 39; not in a position & # 39; is to rewrite or modify the withdrawal agreement secured by the United Kingdom last year (Rick Findler / PA)

Donald Tusk said that the EU & # 39; not in a position & # 39; is to rewrite or modify the withdrawal agreement secured by the United Kingdom last year (Rick Findler / PA)

The European Union "does not want the backstop to go into effect" because it would mean a "sub-optimal trade agreement for both parties", they said. The EU wants to ensure that it is "only in place as long as it is strictly necessary".

The withdrawal agreement makes it clear that this backstop will only enter into force if no broader deal on future relationships is reached at the end of the Brexit transition period in December 2020 – or after a possible extension of up to two years if it is activated.

The EU presidents stated: "If the backstop should come into force in full or in part, it is intended to be applicable only temporarily, unless and until it is replaced by a later agreement."

At a European Council Summit on 13 December, leaders from the remaining 27 member states came up with a definite commitment & # 39; to work quickly to conclude an agreement, which meant that the backstop was not necessary, the letter said.

They agree that, if necessary, it should only be applied "temporarily" and that the EU "will make every effort to reach an agreement quickly and conclude an agreement that would replace the relapse".

The letter states that the committee has committed itself to "providing the necessary political impulses and resources" to ensure that a future relationship agreement is drawn up as soon as possible ".

The letter confirmed that both Mr Tusk and Mr Juncker were ready to sign the withdrawal agreement as soon as the so-called "meaningful vote" was adopted by the British Parliament, so that preparations for a future partnership could begin "immediately thereafter".

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