Despite Britain seeking to re-discuss the deal, the agreement reached for its withdrawal from the European Union is not open for re-negotiation, the European Council president said on Tuesday.
“The withdrawal agreement is and remains the best and only way to ensure an orderly withdrawal of the U.K. from the European Union,” Donald Tusk said in a statement through his spokesman Preben Aamann.
“The backstop is part of the withdrawal agreement, and the withdrawal agreement is not open for re-negotiation,” he added, referring to the measure to avoid a hard Irish border.
Late Tuesday Britain’s Parliament gave Prime Minister Theresa May a mandate to negotiate “alternative arrangements” with the European Union to avoid a hard border.
Tusk said the EU welcomes and shares Parliament’s ambition to avoid a “no-deal scenario,” adding: “We continue to urge the U.K. Government to clarify its intentions with respect to its next steps as soon as possible.”
He said an extension of Article 50 — the part of the EU treaty under which Britain is leaving — could be considered.
He also said the EU will continue its preparations for all outcomes, including a no-deal scenario. “We will also continue the EU’s process of ratification of the agreement reached with the U.K. Government.”
On Tuesday an amendment for Britain to seek “alternative arrangements” with the European Union passed parliament by a vote of 317-301.
May said in a statement afterwards that there is a route that can get a “substantial and sustainable majority in this House for leaving the EU with a deal”.
The amendment “requires the Northern Ireland backstop to be replaced with alternative arrangements to avoid a hard border, supports leaving the EU with a deal and would therefore support the withdrawal agreement subject to this change”.
British voters decided to leave the EU after the country’s more than 40-year membership in a 2016 referendum.
The U.K. is set to leave the EU on March 29, less than two months away.