Theresa May said this afternoon that she had a “robust” conversation with EU leader Jean-Claude Juncker over claims he called her “nebulous”, as she defended her Brexit deal despite a renegotiation looking unlikely.
Speaking to media during a Brexit summit in Brussels, May addressed a video catching her and Juncker in the middle of a confrontation this morning after Juncker said the UK’s demands over Brexit were “nebulous and imprecise”.
Lip readers claiming to have deciphered May’s words on the audio-free recording told Channel 5 News that the Prime Minister said: “What did you call me? You called me nebulous.”
Juncker reportedly replied: “No I didn’t, I didn’t.”
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Addressing journalists, May said it was the kind of “robust” discussion you can have with people you know well, adding: “What came out of that was his clarity that he had been talking, when he used that phrase, about a general level of debate.”
She also held onto assurances from the EU’s meeting of the 27 member states that it did not intend to rely on the controversial so-called Irish backstop, and if it had to do so it would only be for a very short period of time.
May chose to cancel parliament’s vote on her Brexit deal earlier this week amid MPs’ anger over the arrangement, which would tie the UK into a customs union with the EU until a permanent solution can be found to prevent a hard border in Ireland.
The UK cannot leave that arrangement of its own accord.
May said: “My discussions with colleagues today have shown that further clarification and discussion, following the Council's conclusions is, in fact, possible. We will be holding talks in the coming days on how to obtain the further assurances parliament needs in order to approve the deal.
She said EU leaders saw it was “crystal clear” that such assurances were required to get her withdrawal agreement through parliament.
Earlier today the DUP asked May whether she would "roll over" for the EU or "stand up" against the backstop clause.
It comes after Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said he was “very satisfied” at the EU’s position on the Irish backstop.
“As Europe we reaffirmed our commitment to the need for a backstop, and not just because it protects Ireland and ensures no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, thus protecting the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement,” he said, “but also because it's a European issue too, and an open border between Northern Ireland and Ireland can't become a backdoor into the single market.”