The Prime Minister held talks with the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker and the European Council President Donald Tusk to try to find a solution to Brexit deadlock. Theresa May said that she held “robust discussions” with the senior EU figures and had agreed with the President of the European Commission that talks with Brussels would start to try break through issues surrounding the backstop element of the Withdrawal Agreement. Following President Tusk’s “hell” jibe on Wednesday, BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg put the Prime Minister on the spot asking whether she was stuck in “some kind of purgatory”.
She said: “Prime Minister, you keep asking for changes to the Withdrawal Agreement, the divorce deal. The European Union very firmly keeps saying no.
“Now Donald Tusk said some of your colleagues should be sent to hell in the end yesterday. Aren’t you stuck in some kind of purgatory?”
Mrs May replied: “No, first of all, I have raised with President Tusk, the language that he used yesterday.
“Which was not helpful and caused widespread dismay in the United Kingdom.
“The point I made to him is that we should both be working to ensure we can deliver a close relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union in the future, and that is what he should be focusing on.”
Commenting on trying to get legally binding changes to the Withdrawal Agreement, Mrs May said: “I have had a good series of meetings today. We have had robust discussions but they have been constructive.
“What I have set out is our clear position that we must secure legally binding changes to the Withdrawal Agreement to deal with concerns that Parliament has over the backstop.
“Taking that changes to the backstop, together with the other work we are doing on workers rights and other issues, will deliver a stable majority in Parliament.
“That is what I will continue to push for. It is not going to be easy, but crucially, President Juncker and I have agreed that talks will now start to find a way through this, to find a way to get this over the line, and to deliver on the concerns that Parliament has, so we get a majority in Parliament.”
Mrs May also insisted that she was clear she was going to “deliver Brexit”, and deliver Britain’s departure from the EU “on time”.
She added: “That is what I am going to do for the British public, I will be negotiating hard in the coming days to do just that.”
On Thursday, President Juncker made it clear that the EU would not open the Withdrawal Agreement but he said he could negotiate the wording to the Political Declaration agreed by the EU27.
The European Commission statement said: “Despite the challenges, the two leaders agreed that their teams should hold talks as to whether a way through can be found that would gain the broadest possible support in the UK Parliament and respect the guidelines agreed by the European Council.
“The Prime Minister and the President will meet again before the end of February to take stock of these discussions.”
On Wednesday the President of the European Council Donald Tusk sparked fury after he delivered a brutal message to politicians in the UK who had promoted Britain’s departure from the EU.
Mr Tusk said: “I’ve been wondering 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.”