BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Parliament’s Brexit group said on Thursday it would not approve an agreement on Britain’s departure from the European Union that did not contain a full “backstop” provision to avoid a hard Irish border.
The statement, issued after a meeting of the Brexit Steering Group, sought to dash any hopes in London that Prime Minister Theresa May could secure a time limit to the commitment of preventing a border on the island of Ireland.
The group, chaired by Guy Verhofstadt, “reiterated that the withdrawal agreement is fair and cannot be re-negotiated. This applies especially to the backstop ... without such an ‘all-weather’ backstop-insurance, the European Parliament will not give its consent to the withdrawal agreement.”
The European Parliament must give its consent to any final Brexit deal between Brussels and London.
While Britain agrees that there should be a seamless borders and no need for intrusive checks on goods at the Irish border, the Irish government, backed by the rest of the EU, wants an insurance policy in case future special customs and trade arrangements cannot be agreed after Brexit.
“The EU remains clear, firm and united on this even if the negotiated backstop is not meant to be used,” the Brexit Steering Group statement said.
Earlier on Thursday, the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said that backstop could not be time-limited.
Reporting by Francesco Guarascio, editing by Robin Emmott