Andrea Leadsom, the leader of the U.K.’s House of Commons, on Saturday dismissed efforts by the European Union’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier to offer a solution to the Brexit impasse and avoid a hard border in Ireland, calling his statement “disappointing.”
Her comments come days before British politicians will be asked to give their support to the government’s Brexit deal, though British and EU officials are still trying to find a compromise to avoid a so-called “hard border” between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.
In a series of tweets, Barnier said Friday the EU had proposed a new, legally binding “interpretation” of the Brexit deal that would bind the EU, were the controversial Northern Ireland backstop to come into force, to use “its best endeavors” to replace it with an alternative arrangement.
A new legal interpretation of the Withdrawal Agreement would also make clear that the U.K. could unilaterally withdraw from the U.K.-EU “single customs territory” envisioned in the backstop. But that offer came with the significant caveat that the other elements of the backstop would have to remain.
“He seems to be on Twitter offering to go back to negotiations that were ruled out several months ago suggesting somehow that the United Kingdom should be split up and we should have a border down the Irish Sea,” Leadsom told Bloomberg in reference to Barnier’s proposals. “That is disappointing. We are within a few days of the next meaningful vote.”
Leadsom added that U.K. politicians could be given additional opportunities to vote on a prospective Brexit agreement after next week if Brussels was willing to cede ground on the Northern Irish question and other Brexit-related impasses.
“Certainly, in the event that we can get the changes that parliament wants, then parliament will be given opportunities to support the deal,” she said.
In a separate interview with Reuters, Leadsom suggested the EU would share some of the blame if Prime Minister Theresa May failed to get her deal through parliament Tuesday.
Asked who would be to blame in that scenario, Leadsom said: “I would point to the EU needing to work closely with us.”