Letter offers assurance that Brexit backstop will only be temporary

Róisín Power for The University Times

Róisín Power for The University Times

The letter reads: "As you know, we are not in a position to agree to anything that changes or is inconsistent with the Withdrawal Agreement, but against this background, and in order to facilitate the next steps of the process, we are happy to confirm, on behalf of the two EU Institutions we represent, our understanding of the following points within our respective fields of responsibility".

Prime Minister Theresa May has made a last ditch attempt to get MPs to support her withdrawal deal, saying it is the only one on the table.

But European Council president Donald Tusk and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker stressed they were "not in a position" to rewrite or amend the Withdrawal Agreement secured by Mrs May a year ago.

The prime minister and the European Union released letters meant to quell the fears of MPs who believe the United Kingdom will not be able to get out of the backstop arrangement and fear a return of a hard border in Northern Ireland.

In her letter to the European Union leaders, Mrs May wrote: "The clarifications and undertakings proposed in this letter are consistent with the letter and spirit of the deal we have reached, but would be further reassurance that the fears that some hold on both sides are misplaced". The EU wants to ensure it would "only be in place for as long as strictly necessary".

In their response, Tusk and Juncker said that the European Council has chose to give "firm commitment to work speedily on a subsequent agreement that establishes by 31 December 2020 alternative arrangements, so that the backstop will not need to be triggered".

Both Tusk and Juncker said they are ready to sign the withdrawal agreement as soon as the so-called "meaningful vote" is passed by the UK Parliament.

The letter said that the commission was "committed to providing the necessary political impetus and resources" to ensure that a future relationship agreement is drawn up as "quickly as possible".

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