The European Union promised to work with British Prime Minister Theresa May to see "whether a way through can be found" after May asked for changes to the divorce deal to be made to get it through the British parliament. The proclaimed goal for both sides is being able to avoid the major disruption of a no-deal Brexit.
May was in Brussels Thursday February 7th to plead with EU leaders to change the withdrawal agreement she negotiated last year, which was rejected overwhelmingly by the British parliament in January.
EU leaders have repeatedly made clear there would be no renegotiations and said it would be impossible to replace the controversial provision, known as the "backstop" because it is required to ensure no hard border between Northern Ireland and EU-member Ireland, once the focus for sectarian violence.
"President Juncker underlined that the EU27 will not reopen the withdrawal agreement," the EU's executive arm said, but described talks between Juncker and May as "robust” and “constructive," according to AP.
The two tasked their teams to work on "whether a way through can be found that would gain the broadest possible support in the UK Parliament” and still respect the EU's stance. They agreed to meet again before the end of February.
European Council President Donald Tusk also said he still believed a common Brexit solution was possible, but conveyed the frustration in Brussels a day earlier, saying he wondered what "that special place in hell looks like, for those who promoted Brexit, without even a sketch of a plan how to carry it out safely." The statement drew criticism from many in Britain amidst the already tense atmosphere.
Meanwhile, more possible repercussions of a no-deal Brexit were raised back in the UK. Digital Minister Jeremy Wright said that mobile roaming would not be protected in a no-deal Brexit. British tourists could therefore see the return of expensive mobile roaming charges when going on holiday.
On the same day, the Bank of England announced that Britain faced its weakest economic growth in ten years in 2019, according to their calculations. Governor Mark Carney blamed "the fog of Brexit” for causing “mounting uncertainty,” and the global slowdown for “creating a series of tensions in the economy, tensions for business.”
The British parliament is set to hold a debate on Brexit after May has completed her tour, which includes further stops in Strasbourg and Dublin for more talks, Reuters reported. May has said she wants to bring a revised deal back to parliament for a vote as soon as possible, and promised that, should her deal not be ready for a so-called "meaningful vote" by February 13th, lawmakers will get to debate Brexit on February 14th.