Jean-Claude Juncker made clear the EU is playing hardball on Brexit today – flatly dismissing Theresa May’s plan to overhaul the Irish border backstop.
As the wrangling intensified, the EU commission president delivered a stinging rebuke to calls from the PM to rework the insurance policy – saying it ‘cannot be removed’ from the divorce package.
He also dismissed the idea that the other states will abandon Ireland for fear of damaging their own economies, saying solidarity ‘goes to the heart of what being a member of the EU means’.
‘Ireland’s border is our border,’ he said.
But speaking in the European Parliament, Mr Juncker also admitted the threat of no deal Brexit is rising. Michel Barnier joined in the tough talk by complaining that the ‘blame game’ against the EU in the UK was ‘hard to accept’.
EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker (pictured left in the European Parliament with Michel Barnier today) delivered a stinging rebuke to calls from the PM to rework the insurance policy – saying it ‘cannot be removed’ from the divorce package
Mr Juncker was greeted warmly by former Ukip leader Nigel Farage in Brussels today, despite their differences over Brexit
Mr Coveney said Theresa May (pictured in Downing Street today) was desperately trying to ‘accommodate’ the right wing of her party despite it undermining her own position
The intervention came as Cabinet ministers played down the wall of rejection from the EU following Mrs May’s triumph in a series of Commons votes last night.
One told MailOnline that everyone needed to remain ‘calm’ as ‘noise’ from Brussels was only to be expected.
‘This is just what the EU does. It never makes any kind of deal until the last moment,’ they said.
‘We are inevitably going to get all sorts of dire warnings and blank denials.
‘It is just a lot of noise. People just need to stay calm and let the PM work.’
In a glimmer of light for Mrs May, the Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki revealed he had phoned German Chancellor Angela Merkel to urge her to find a way through the impasse.
Mrs May has hailed a new ‘mandate’ in talks after a majority of MPs last night approved her deal on the condition that she can replace the backstop with ‘alternative arrangements’.
A Remainer bid to delay the Brexit date was also rejected, although the Commons did pass a symbolic motion opposing a no-deal departure.
The premier is now preparing to enter ‘trench warfare’ with Brussels to get more concessions – with just two months to go until the UK is due to leave the bloc.
However, a slew of leaders have popped up to reject the idea of reopening the Withdrawal Agreement.
Ireland’s deputy prime minister Simon Coveney claimed Mrs May’s new tactics were like saying ‘give me what I want or I’m jumping out the window’.
He said the PM was desperately trying to ‘accommodate’ the right wing of her party despite it undermining her own position.
He insisted Ireland would continue to hold Britain to promises made during the two year Brexit negotiation about the border in Northern Ireland.
EU Council President Donald Tusk will speak to Mrs May tonight to start what is expected to be a frenzied fortnight of diplomacy.
She is also speaking to Irish PM Leo Varadkar.
Ireland’s deputy prime minister Simon Coveney (pictured in Dublin on Monday) claim Brexiteers new tactics were the equivalent of a saying ‘give me what I want or I’m jumping out the window’ today
EU Council President Donald Tusk (pictured in Brussels last week with Jacinda Adern) will speak to Mrs May later today to start what is expected to be a frenzied fortnight of diplomacy
Guy Verhofstadt and Michel Barnier (pictured laughing today) led crisis talks this morning (pictured) – but are standing firm saying the deal will not be reopened
Mr Coveney told Ireland’s RTE today: ‘There is a wing in the Tory party, who in my view, want a different Brexit and she is having to accommodate those people by taking a tougher line and fundamentally undermining her own position.
‘Surely the responsible thing for the Irish government to do is to hold the British government to its word.’
What happens next after MPs backed Plan B?
Later this week: Theresa May is expected to return to Brussels to ask for changes to the Irish backstop, after MPs backed an amendment calling for ‘alternative arrangements’. Her office has not yet confirmed when she will travel to meet EU leaders, who have already said they will not renegotiate the deal.
February 13: If no new deal has been reached, Mrs May will address MPs again on this date and her Government will put a further motion before the House of Commons. MPs would then be able to vote on further amendments, potentially on February 14.
March 29: Brexit day. The European Union (Withdrawal) Act of 2018 fixed 11pm on March 29 as the time and date when Britain will leave the EU. If no agreement has been reached by then, the UK – in spite of the Commons vote against a cliff-edge Brexit last night – will leave without a deal.
He accused the Britain of saying ‘either you give me what I want or I’m jumping out the window’.
European Parliament Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt said this morning: ‘The Irish backstop is an insurance element of Theresa May’s Brexit deal which must remain’.
While chief negotiator Michel Barnier said simply: ‘The position of the European Union is very clear. The EU institutions remain united, and we stand by the agreement that we have negotiated with the UK never against the UK’.
German foreign minister Heiko Maas said today that the EU’s current Brexit deal is ‘best and only solution’.
Mrs May’s ministers ramped up tensions with the EU today in the wake of Theresa May’s historic Commons victory – warning that the £39billion divorce bill could be axed if it does not compromise.
Brexit minister Kwasi Kwarteng insisted Brussels would not get a ‘penny pinch’ from the UK unless there was ‘some give’ on the hated Irish border backstop.
Mr Juncker met the European commissioners this morning to discuss new plans for dealing with a no-deal Brexit.
Last night Commons voted by 317 to 301 in favour of the backstop changes – which Mrs May said showed there was a means of securing a ‘substantial and sustainable majority in this House for leaving the EU with a deal’ and vowed to seek a new agreement with Brussels.
Theresa May smiles last night after securing a rare Commons victory last night as she goes head to head with the EU over the dreaded backstop
Jeremy Corbyn (pictured) finally agreed to Brexit talks with Theresa May last night after the Prime Minister navigated a minefield of seven votes on Plan B
A diagram showing how Graham Brady’s amendment – calling on Theresa May to renegotiate the Irish backstop – won the support of the House of Commons