Brussels issued a stark message to whoever becomes the next British prime minister, insisting the Brexit deal could not be rewritten.
The European Union has repeatedly said it would not reopen the legal text of the Withdrawal Agreement signed off by Theresa May and the 27 other leaders after protracted negotiations.
European Commission officials agreed that “nothing has changed” in relation to the status of the Brexit deal.
.@Mina_Andreeva @EU_Commission: “@JunckerEU very much liked & appreciated working with PM @theresa_may…a woman of courage, for whom he has great respect. He will equally respect & establish working relations with any new PM, whomever they may be.” 🇪🇺🇬🇧
— Daniel Ferrie (@DanielFerrie) May 24, 2019
Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker “followed Prime Minister May’s announcement this morning without personal joy”, Brussels said.
Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva added: “The president very much liked and appreciated working with Prime Minister May, and has said before, Theresa May is a woman of courage for whom he has great respect.
“He will equally respect and establish working relations with any new prime minister, whomever they may be, without stopping his conversations with Prime Minister May.”
But she stressed: “We have set out our position on the Withdrawal Agreement and on the political declaration.
“The European Commission and the Article 50 format has set out its position and we remain available for anyone who will be the new prime minister.”
Manfred Weber, an ally of German chancellor Angela Merkel and the centre-right’s lead candidate to replace Mr Juncker after the European elections, said Brexit was a “total disaster” but Mrs May “fought for a stable solution and a viable deal”.
In a message to her successor he said: “We hope once more for a constructive approach from our British partners.
“I appeal to the UK’s sense of responsibility and leadership in these times of great uncertainty.”
I have said it many times before: #Brexit is a total disaster. In the face of this mess the only alternative for Europe is unity and stability. We need a #betterEurope, not a broken Europe. #StrongerTogether 1/2
— Manfred Weber (@ManfredWeber) May 24, 2019
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte stressed that the Withdrawal Agreement reached with the EU “remains on the table”.
Mrs Merkel’s spokeswoman, Martina Fietz, said the German chancellor noted Mrs May’s decision “with respect” and would continue to work closely with her successor for “an orderly exit.”
— Michel Barnier (@MichelBarnier) May 24, 2019
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, expressed his “full respect” for Mrs May and her “determination” to reach a Brexit deal.
A spokeswoman for Emmanuel Macron said the French president had sent Theresa May a message of support following her resignation.
The spokeswoman said: “The Prime Minister of Britain has announced she will shortly quit her role. She has led a courageous effort to make Brexit happen.
“She worked towards Brexit in the interests of her country and in respect of her European partners.”
“The president has sent her a personal message of support and thanks. It is now the work of the United Kingdom, following its procedures, to appoint a new prime minister.
“France holds itself ready to work together with the new British prime minister on bilateral and European issues. Our relationship with the United Kingdom is essential in all areas. It is too early to speculate on the consequences of this decision.
He added: “It must also be remembered in this moment of important choice, that votes to reject [the Brexit deal] without an alternative will lead to an impasse.”