Following votes in the House of Commons on the UK government’s Brexit motion, S&D Group president Udo Bullmann and Group spokesperson on Brexit Roberto Gualtieri said:
"A cornerstone of the Brexit negotiations has been the commitment from both the UK and EU to protect the Good Friday Agreement and prevent any hard border in Ireland. The backstop is just a guarantee, an option of last resort to ensure that there will be no hardening of the border and no threat to the integrity of the single market. The withdrawal agreement cannot be reopened. The only alternative way to ensure the backstop is not used is a UK wide customs union and close alignment on the single market. If the UK government is prepared to change its red lines on this, we are ready to negotiate as close a relationship as possible.
“It is positive that the UK Parliament rejected a no-deal Brexit today, and Theresa May should respect this. No-deal would be bad for all but a disaster for the UK.
“It is pointless to attempt to renegotiate one of the main pillars of the withdrawal agreement. It is time to show responsibility and form a positive majority for a closer partnership with the EU or put the question back to the British people.
“We have always viewed Brexit as a historic mistake and if the UK was to change its mind we would welcome it. However, we have worked in a constructive and responsible way to mitigate its worst consequences. Today, Theresa May has failed to do the same. Yet again, she has pandered to the extremists in her party and offered unachievable promises rather than real leadership.”