European Parliament ‘stands by’ Irish backstop

LONDON (AP) — The European Parliament’s top Brexit lawmaker says the EU assembly stands by the divorce agreement sealed with Britain and that there can be no renegotiation of a provision guaranteeing that the Irish border remains open.

Guy Verhofstadt, who heads the assembly’s Brexit Steering Group, said “the withdrawal agreement is fair and cannot be replaced.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May is due in Brussels on Thursday to seek concessions to the Brexit deal.

Verhofstadt says “it is the U.K.’s obligation to now propose a positive and viable proposal on the way forward.”

Referring to the backstop — a safeguard to keep trade moving freely between the U.K.’s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland — Verhofstadt said “political uncertainty in the U.K. has reinforced to us why this insurance policy is required.”

Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29 but there is no idea how it will leave after U.K. lawmakers overwhelmingly voted against the deal, with many doing so because of their opposition to the backstop.