British Prime Minister, Theresa May, arrived Brussels on Thursday to secure the help of EU leaders in resolving the BREXIT impasse at home.
She, however, said on arrival that she did not expect to secure a quick breakthrough in Brexit talks that would give her party the reassurances needed to get her deal through parliament.
Arriving in Brussels just a day after a failed attempt to topple her at home, May was met largely by readiness to help from European Union leaders and one demand: tell us what you want.
Britain’s departure from the EU, its biggest shift in trade and foreign policy for more than 40 years, is proving anything but smooth.
It has been complicated by the deep divisions in her Conservative Party, the lower House of Commons and the country as a whole.
With less than four months before Britain is due to leave on March 29, May faces deadlock in parliament over the deal she agreed with the EU last month.
The deadlock has hardened opposing positions at home, throwing up more uncertainty for businesses trying to predict what will happen to the $2.8 trillion economy.
“I recognise the strength of concern in the House of Commons and that is what I will be putting to colleagues today,” May said.
“I don’t expect an immediate breakthrough, but what I do hope is that we can start work as quickly as possible on the assurances that are necessary.”
EU leaders all said they needed to know exactly what May wanted to secure in Brussels.
However, they also warned that Britain could not reopen the divorce deal, or withdrawal agreement, signed off by both sides in November.
While others tried to temper their language by expressing a desire to help May, French President Emmanuel Macron ruled out any legal changes to the agreement.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel was less strident.
“We can of course talk about whether there are additional assurances but in this the 27 EU members are together and will make their interests clear, although always in the spirit that we want very, very good relations with Great Britain after Great Britain has left the European Union.”
She won the secret ballot 200-117 but the size of the vote against her merely deepened divisions just weeks before parliament needs to approve a deal to prevent a disorderly exit from the EU. Victory also came at a price – May promised she would step down by the next election scheduled for 2022.
“I said that in my heart I would love to able to lead the Conservative Party into the next general election but I think it is right that the party feels it would prefer to go into that election with a new leader,” she told reporters.
With no vote on the Brexit package in the parliamentary schedule before Christmas, May hopes to secure political and legal assurances from the EU over the so-called Northern Ireland backstop – designed to prevent extensive controls on the border with the Irish republic that could disrupt a peace settlement for the British-ruled province.
But while EU leaders said they wanted to help, a draft EU statement said they were merely “ready to examine” whether further assurance can be given.