Austrian leader hopes Brexit can be reversed after Commons setback
The Austrian chancellor, Christian Kern, has spoken of his hopes that Brexit can be reversed after Theresa May's defeat over the UK parliament's right to have a meaningful vote on the European Union withdrawal Bill.
News of the prime minister's setback provoked a mixed response among the leaders of 27 member states arriving for an EU summit on Thursday, with concerns that it could complicate Brexit negotiations.
Arriving later at the summit, after attending a memorial to those who died in the Grenfell tower fire, May said her government was still on course to deliver Brexit. "I am disappointed with the amendment but actually the EU withdrawal Bill is making good progress through the House of Commons," she said. However, Kern told reporters he held out hope that Britain would change its mind about leaving the bloc.
"I hope that it [Brexit] could be reversed because there will be a lot of big issues and challenges that will not be easy to solve," he said. "There will be a lot of tensions in the domestic political area in Great Britain."
MPs voted 309 votes to 305 on Wednesday night to limit ministers' power to make sweeping changes to the law before parliament has approved a Brexit deal. May is expected to explain to EU leaders over dinner on Thursday night how the defeat will impact on her ability to negotiate. Xavier Bettel, Luxembourg's prime minister, said he respected Wednesday's vote but added it "doesn't help a lot" given the need for swift decisions from Downing Street in the second phase of the negotiations on trade and a potential transition period. The EU leaders are expected to rule at a meeting on Friday that sufficient progress on the first phase of Brexit talks has been made, to allow the talks to widen. Bettel said: "We have to respect [the vote], but we have an agenda, so this makes it even shorter for Theresa May's government to make proposals." The Dutch PM, Mark Rutte, whose country is an advocate for a close relationship with the UK post-Brexit, was among those who praised May. But he called on her to swiftly set out a vision of the future to allow substantive talks on trade to start.