European leaders have warned the next UK prime minister will not be able to re-open talks over Britain’s withdrawal agreement with the EU.
The warning comes soon after Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt were confirmed as the final two candidates in the Tory leadership race, with Conservative party members set to vote between the pair.
Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, told a press conference at a Brussels summit of EU leaders that European leaders “looked forward” to working together with the new UK prime minister.
But he repeated the EU’s long-standing message on Friday: “The withdrawal agreement is not open for renegotiation.
"Maybe the process of Brexit will be even more exciting than before because of some personnel decisions in London, but nothing has changed in our position," he told reporters.
*NEW* Donald Tusk tells me the UK is ‘wasting time’ on Brexit. Remember when announcing Brexit extension he said ‘please don’t waste this time’. Clearly underwhelmed with state of play.— Ros Atkins (@BBCRosAtkins) June 21, 2019
European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker also said there was “nothing new” to say on Brexit.
“Nothing new, because we repeated unanimously there will be no renegotiation of the withdrawal agreement,” he said.
But Tusk suggested there was more room for discussion of the second part of the agreement May’s government reached with Brussels, which contains a political declaration on their desired future relationship rather than the legal terms of the divorce.
“We are open for talks when it comes to the declaration on the future UK-EU relationship if the position of the United Kingdom were to evolve.
“We want to avoid a disorderly Brexit,” Tusk said, adding that the EU wanted a relationship “as close as possible” with the UK.
Johnson and Hunt have both claimed the EU could re-open withdrawal talks and change their position on the Irish backstop, despite the EU’s clear and united position that they will not do so.
Hunt has said he would be better at negotiating than the UK has been so far, while Johnson has suggested withholding the UK’s divorce bill and highlighted possible EU fears of Nigel Farage’s new party.
“I think what they will see is that politics has changed in the UK and in Europe, they have now 29 Brexit MEPs in Strasbourg,” said Johnson on the ‘Our Next Prime Minister’ debate on BBC earlier this week.