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EU Would Rather No-Deal Brexit Than Abandon Irish Backstop, May Told

LONDON – British Prime Minister Theresa May has been warned the EU will settle for a no-deal Brexit rather than abandon the Irish backstop, as Brussels ramped up its refusal to reopen talks, Daily Independent said Wednesday.
Philippe Lamberts, A senior Member of European Parliament (MEP), serving on the European Parliament’s Brexit Steering Group, said the prime minister’s plea to rip up the existing agreement would be rejected – because a no-deal outcome was “the lesser evil”.
“There will be a price to pay, but the calculus that is being made on this side of the Channel is that the cost of hurting the integrity of the single market will be significantly bigger,” said Philippe Lamberts.
“And, therefore, if we have a choice to make between two evils then, well, no deal is the lesser evil.”
The warning came as an ally of Angela Merkel said renegotiating the backstop would backfire on the UK – by reopening controversies over Gibraltar, fishing and the Brexit divorce bill.
Meanwhile, Stephen Barclay, the Brexit secretary, failed – four times – to say what “alternative arrangements” to the backstop Ms May will be seeking when she returns to Brussels.
Mr Barclay said “that what’s we’re exploring”, as he also declined to say a new deal would be done by the next Westminster deadline, in just two weeks’ time.
The fresh barbs from the continent came as the government celebrated winning Commons support to seek to renegotiate the Brexit deal – while defeating attempts by backbench MPs to seize control of the Brexit process.
The prime minister is expected to return to Brussels in the coming days – after meeting Jeremy Corbyn later on Wednesday – but with the clock still ticking and little hope of success.
She was forced to promise another series of big votes no later than 14 February, to stop her own ministers from resigning en masse to block the UK crashing out on 29 March.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4, Mr Barclay confirmed three possible options to rework the backstop; a time limit, an exit clause or the use of new – unproven – technology.
However, all three have been repeatedly rejected by the EU, which Ms May accepted when she signed the withdrawal agreement in early December.
Asked if a new deal could be secured in the next fortnight, Mr Barclay said only: “There is an ongoing process…..we are working hard in the national interest.”
Mr Lamberts, a Belgian MEP, said EU would suffer less from a no-deal Brexit than the UK, which was preferable to opening a “backdoor to the single market” on the Irish border.
Manfred Weber, a Merkel ally who is the frontrunner to be the next European Commission president, said “everything is reopened”, if the withdrawal treaty is renegotiated.
“We talk again about Gibraltar, we talk again about the fisheries policies, we talk again about how much Great Britain must pay when they are leaving the EU,” he told a German broadcaster.
(Sahar News Monitoring Desk)

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