EU powerbroker Sebastian Kurz has provided a much-needed boost to beleaguered Theresa May by urging British MPs to back the Brexit deal.
The Austrian chancellor and current chair of the European Council insisted that the agreement brokered this week is a “good deal for both sides.”
“Nobody has been cheated,” he told reporters as he arrived for meetings in Brussels.
“This deal prevents a hard Brexit. Therefore it helps us in Europe, but even more so it helps Britain because a hard Brexit would hit Britain significantly more severely.”
In a message to British MPs, he added: “I sincerely hope there will be some necessary support in the British parliament, that would lay the foundation for an orderly withdrawal.”
Kurz’s comments are part of a campaign by the EU to crush suggestions in London that a better deal could be negotiated.
German chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday that “there is no question of further bargaining.”
Her message was reiterated on Friday by Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte, who said “major changes seem unlikely.”
And a senior EU diplomat warned: “There is no plan B for us. If the British cabinet falls and we can’t call an EU summit to back the draft agreement or the Commons doesn’t ratify it, we enter into a serious crisis.”
But former Brexit secretary David Davis fought back against the idea that it’s this deal or no deal in an interview with the Today programme.
“Of course they want us to accept this dreadful deal,” he said. “A deal is very, very favourable to them so of course they’re going to say: ‘we’re not going to accept any changes.’”
The extent of the opposition to the deal in the Commons was laid bare during a three-hour debate with Theresa May on Thursday, during which the prime minister sustained attacks from her own benches as well as from the opposition.
Davis predicted that May will be forced to re-enter negotiations when the deal is voted down by MPs and said a no-deal Brexit would be “much better” than the current deal.
The EU is pressing ahead with preparations for a summit to sign-off the current deal next Sunday despite the perilous position it is now in.
Representatives of the EU27 held a two-and-a-half-hour discussion over the deal with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier on Friday.
Ministers from each member state will then meet in Brussels on Monday for a political level discussion, but no objections are expected to be made.
France has parked its concerns over fishing rights in order to get the Withdrawal Agreement over the line.
One diplomat said: “Fish is an issue but I guess it will be addressed in the political declaration. On the European side, I don’t see any roadblocks ahead.”
UK and EU negotiators are meeting again over the weekend in a bid to finalise the political declaration, which is due to be published next Tuesday.
Speaking as he left Friday’s meeting with ambassadors, Barnier said of the deal: “It’s an ongoing process.”