Jan. 30 (UPI) — British Prime Minister Theresa May told London lawmakers Tuesday she wants to renegotiate Britain’s exit from the European Union.
May requested lawmakers give her a mandate to return to Belgium so she can reopen talks with the union on the issue.
The prime minister spoke before British lawmakers Tuesday, frustrated by her inability to win approval for her withdrawal agreement ahead of the scheduled departure in 60 days. The lawmakers tried to force clarity on the deal Tuesday as they debated and voted on its amendments.
May admitted there was “limited appetite” for new negotiations. A renegotiation would involve one of the most contentious parts of her deal, which is whether Britain’s exit would mark the return of a “hard border” between Ireland and Northern Ireland, called a “backstop.”
An open border between Northern Ireland’s Irish Catholic community and its British protestant side have led to years of peace. A “backstop” is a temporary measure that allows the border to stay open in the event the United Kingdom and European Union fail to reach a free trade deal. However, critics fear it could indefinitely isolate Northern Ireland.
“Even if the proposals were remotely workable, they would be disastrous for our country,” the People’s Vote, a British campaign group calling for a second referendum on Brexit, said in a briefing Tuesday. “It would jeopardize peace in Northern Ireland, threaten jobs and key industries, alienate our allies, and serve only as a basis for the dangerous economic plans favored by hardline Brexiters.”
Ireland’s European minister, Helen McEnteee, said in a tweet Tuesday restarting “backstop” talks is not a good idea.
“There can be no change to the backstop,” she wrote. “It was negotiated over 18 months with the U.K. and by the U.K. A bit of realism is needed at this stage.”
Renegotiation is one of several amendments lawmakers debated in House of commons Tuesday. Another sought to stop a no-deal departure, in which Britain would leave March 29 without any agreement.
U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats warned Tuesday a no-deal exit could hurt both Europe and the United Kingdom.
“The possibility of a no-deal Brexit in which the U.K. exits the EU without an agreement remains,” Coats told the Senate intelligence committee in a hearing on global threats. “This would cause economic disruptions that would substantially weaken the U.K. and Europe.”