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AUSTRIAN LEADER HOPES BREXIT CAN BE REVERSED AFTER COMMONS SETBACKThe 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 morning 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 prime minister, 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.
Rutte said: “I still think she has a formidable stature here and last week Friday showed all of us that we should not underestimate Theresa May, she’s a formidable politician.”

Asked whether he believed May could still deliver on her promises, he said: “Yes I do think so because I believe in UK society and also in the political circles there’s widespread support for a reasonable negotiated exit of Britain from the EU.”
In response to David Davis’s suggestion that last week’s agreement between the UK and EU had no legal standing, he added: “An eyebrow was raised here and there because of that comment but I think it makes it more necessary to have as soon as possible that deal of last Friday in legally binding text so that we cannot have a misunderstanding exactly what was agreed.”
Rutte said he expected May to soon sketch out her vision of the future. “I guess she’s holding her cards close to her heart at the moment, which I understand on the next phase and this is probably a wise negotiating tactic,” he said. “But of course having now hopefully passed the mark of phase one, I think we need from her to understand how she sees this future relationship with the EU. It’s now for the UK to make up its mind and together collectively to see where we can get to.”
Earlier in the day Danuta Hübner, a Polish MEP who chairs the European parliament’s constitutional affairs committee, said the Commons vote would change little if MPs were given a vote after October 2018, as formal negotiations will have been completed.
EU negotiators have long said Brexit negotiations must be completed by October 2018 to allow time for the ratification of the treaty before the UK’s departure day on 29 March 2019.

Hübner said: “Once it is finalised and it is signed by both parties, then any change to it means reopening negotiations, meaning we will not make it within the two years [the article 50 deadline], meaning there is a hard Brexit.”
Stressing it was purely a British decision to decide how MPs will have a say on the withdrawal agreement, she said even the smallest change to the treaty would mean resuming negotiations. “Once anybody changes a comma or a dot or one word, then there is no opinion, this has to go back to the negotiations.”
The six-month window from October 2018 to March 2019 is intended to allow the treaty to be translated into the EU’s 24 official languages and for it to be scrutinised by committees in the European parliament, before the final plenary vote.
The European parliament will be asked to approve the article 50 treaty before March 2019, but will be unable to make changes. Hübner, a member of the parliament’s Brexit steering group, said MEPs were seeking to exert influence in other ways. “That is why we use a period of negotiation to influence the negotiations, to know what is in the mandate, to contribute to the result, but we cannot amend [the treaty] because then it will be a never ending story.”

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