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EU says next UK prime minister can't re-open Brexit withdrawal talks

Tom Belger
·Finance and policy reporter
President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker and the President of the European Council Donald Tusk give a press conference after the first day of the European Summit where the future of the Presidency of the Commission and the Council were discussed in Brussels, on June 21, 2019. (Photo by Aris Oikonomou / AFP)        (Photo credit should read ARIS OIKONOMOU/AFP/Getty Images)
President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker and the President of the European Council Donald Tusk. Photo: ARIS OIKONOMOU/AFP/Getty Images

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.

READ MORE: Bank of England governor Mark Carney slams Johnson’s Brexit plans

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.

ARCHIVO - La combo de dos fotos de archivo muestra a Jeremy Hunt, izquierda, y Boris Johnson, quienes contenderán por el liderato del Partido Conservador y el puesto de primer ministro de Gran Bretaña. (AP Foto FILE/Matt Dunham, Frank Augstein)
Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson. Photo: AP Foto FILE/Matt Dunham, Frank Augstein

READ MORE: Most UK exporters not ready for a no-deal Brexit

“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.