Mrs May has arrived in the EU capital where she will address the Brussels’ bosses at the two-day summit.The Prime Minister saw off rebels last night who tried to remove her from the party leadership, which she won by 200 votes to 117 in a confidence vote.Mrs May held one to one talks with the Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar before the summit after she cancelled a planned trip to Dublin on Wednesday so she could fight for her leadership.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said it was possible the EU would call another Brexit summit in January to agree “additional assurances”.
He said: “As the European Union we are very keen to offer explanations, assurances, clarifications, anything that may assist MPs to understand the agreement and hopefully to support it but the backstop is not on the table.
“If the backstop has an expiry date, if there is a unilateral exit clause then it is not a backstop. That would be to render it inoperable.
“That would mean reopening the substance of the Withdrawal Agreement and the European Union is unequivocal that is not an option.”
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Mr Kurz said: “The EU27 have a clear goal of ensuring an orderly Brexit. Of course we are ready to make concessions to Theresa May where possible. It is not a question of forcing through our positions to the maximum, but of finding a settlement which is the best possible for both sides.
“It is our goal to find a settlement which works for both sides and is capable of securing a majority in both the European and British parliaments.”
May faces deadlock in parliament over the deal she has agreed with the EU last month.
She said: “I don’t expect an immediate breakthrough, but what I do hope its that we can start work as quickly as possible on the assurances that are necessary.”
The backstop is the main challenge for the lawmakers who are concerned the UK will become stuck in fallback arrangements, preventing it from striking trade deals beyond the EU.
The prime minister of Luxembourg Xavier Bettel met Theresa May in Brussels before the formal start of the summit.
He said it would not be possible to make significant changes to the withdrawal agreement, claiming: “We won’t be able to do genuine changes.
“Renegotiating will be very, very hard, but if we need to do precisions to help Theresa May – I really want to help her.”
The Finnish PM Juha Sipila said that delivering “legally binding” assurances on the backstop would be “difficult”.