European leaders acted swiftly to reject an attempt by Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May to re-open talks on the Brexit divorce deal, as British lawmakers voted to demand changes.
EU Council president Donald Tusk's spokesperson said, "We continue to urge the UK government to clarify its intentions with respect to the next steps as soon as possible."
"The Withdrawal Agreement is and remains the best and only way to ensure an orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union. The backstop is part of the Withdrawal Agreement, and the Withdrawal Agreement is not open for renegotiation." The spokesman repeated the longstanding EU position that the other members could find a way of tweaking a political declaration that was issued with the withdrawal deal.
If Britain makes a reasoned request to extend the Brexit deadline beyond March 29, this could be arranged if the other 27 leaders agree. He added: "If the UK's intentions for the future partnership were to evolve, the EU would be prepared to reconsider its offer and adjust the content and the level of ambition of the political declaration."
When May signed the withdrawal agreement in November, both she and the other 27 EU leaders hailed it as the only way to avoid Britain crashing out of the bloc on March 29 without a plan. But the British premier failed to sell the agreement to her own parliament, which on Tuesday voted to send her back to demand that the deal be stripped of the "Irish backstop".