The European Commission President was said to be deliberately wearing a green tie with his suit as a show of support from the bloc for Ireland over the backstop issue. Tom Connolly, Europe Editor for Irish state broadcaster RTE and author of the book Brexit and Ireland, posted a picture on Twitter of Jean-Claude Juncker sharing a warm welcome with Theresa May. He captioned the image: “.@Juncker deliberately chose a green tie this morning, I’m told #euco.”
Theresa May is facing a potentially defining 24 hours as she seeks more concessions from the EU and its member states around the Irish backstop, which continues to be a major hurdle in Brexit negotiations.
European figureheads, particularly over the past week, have publicly voiced their support for Ireland over recent days.
Mrs May agreed a deal with Brussels last month but when the full legal text was published last Wednesday after the Government was ruled to be in contempt of Parliament, it revealed the Irish backstop could last “indefinitely”.
EU SUMMIT LIVE: ‘No one in EU wants to trigger it’ Rutte lets SLIP backstop may DESTROY EU
In the document, Attorney General Geoffrey Cox wrote: “Despite statements in the protocol, the backstop that it is not intended to be permanent, and the clear intention of the parties that it should be replaced by alternative, permanent arrangements, in international law the protocol would endure indefinitely until a superseding agreement took its place.”
He added the backstop would continue “even when negotiations have clearly broken down” and attempts to leave the backstop could see the UK become involved in “protracted and repeating round of negotiations”.
This left MPs furious, and under severe pressure and facing the prospect of a humiliating defeat in the Commons on her Brexit deal, the Prime Minister delayed the process on Monday – just 24 hours before it was set to take place.
This would provide her with time to return to Brussels today as she attempts to get more concessions and reassurances on the backstop in an attempt to persuade MPs to back her deal.
But both the EU and Ireland have poured cold water on this, warning the Withdrawal Agreement and particularly details agreed on the backstop, will not be changed.
Mr Juncker dealt arguably the heaviest blow to Mrs May in her bid to secure new reassurances by declaring there was “no room whatsoever for renegotiation”.
He insisted “Ireland will never be left alone” and that the Withdrawal Agreement on offer was the “best deal possible” and the “only deal possible”.
Speaking in the European Parliament on Tuesday, Mr Juncker said: “There is no room whatsoever for renegotiation, but of course there is room if used intelligently, there is room enough to give further clarifications and further interpretations without opening the Withdrawal Agreement.
“This will not happen: everyone has to note that the Withdrawal Agreement will not be reopened.
“We have a common determination to do everything to be not in a situation one day to use that backstop but we have to prepare.
“It’s necessary for the entire coherence of what we have agreed. It’s necessary for Britain and it’s necessary for Ireland. Ireland will never be left alone.”
Just hours after Mrs May announced she was delaying the vote on her Brexit deal, European Council President Donald Tusk dealt another crushing blow.
As fears the chaos engulfing the Prime Minister’s deal will see Britain tumble out of the bloc without a Withdrawal Agreement, he warned preparations for a no-deal would also be stepped up.
He tweeted on Monday evening: “I have decided to call #EUCO on #Brexit (Art. 50) on Thursday. We will not renegotiate the deal, including the backstop, but we are ready to discuss how to facilitate UK ratification.
“As time is running out, we will also discuss our preparedness for a no-deal scenario.”
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar is also siding with the EU against Mrs May, and is continuing to insist the Irish backstop cannot be renegotiated.
When he arrived at the EU summit today, he was asked about renegotiating the backstop to avoid a no-deal Brexit, but said: “The UK decided to leave the EU, so the deal has to be accepted by both sides.”