The Latest: UK minister says Brexit bill can pass Parliament

BRUSSELS (AP) — The Latest on Brexit (all times local):

7 p.m.

Britain’s environmental secretary says Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit bill can survive in Parliament despite strong opposition.

Michael Gove said Friday he thinks the contentious bill can pass in Parliament although he did not offer details about how parliamentary support can be gained in the coming weeks.

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“Yes, I think it can,” he said when asked about whether the bill could win a majority in Parliament.

Gove is a prominent Brexit supporter who this week supported May in a confidence vote brought by her own Conservative Party.

He praised her “tenacity, determination and focus on the national interest.”

May this week delayed a vote on the bill because it faced almost certain defeat in Parliament.

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4:55 p.m.

French President Emmanuel Macron says the withdrawal deal on Brexit cannot be renegotiated and that it’s now up to the British Parliament to make the next move.

Macron spoke Friday after an EU summit and a one-on-one meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May, seeking help from EU leaders to help her sell the deal to skeptical lawmakers.

Macron insisted “there is one accord, the only one possible,” adding “we cannot renegotiate it.” He told reporters that now it’s “the British parliament’s time” to decide whether to accept or reject it.

He said EU leaders are willing to “clarify and discuss” the accord, and said EU leaders at the summit sought to debunk “fantasies” about the so-called backstop for the Irish border.

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3:30 p.m.

Romania’s president is stressing how important it is for Romanians and other European Union citizens in the U.K. to have their rights respected after it leaves bloc.

In a meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May in Brussels, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said the divorce deal was “important… to guarantee the rights of (Romanians) who live, work or study in Britain.”

Iohannis said all EU citizens living in the U.K. should be treated in a non-discriminatory way, both those currently there and those who move there in the future.

Romania takes over the rotating presidency of the EU on Jan. 1. Britain’s departure from the bloc, scheduled for March 29, occurs on its watch.

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3 p.m.

British Prime Minister Theresa May says she had a “robust” exchange with EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker about his use of the word “nebulous,” which was construed by some as targeting the thoughts of the British leader herself.

In a statement on the Brexit talks Thursday, Juncker criticized the divorce debate for sometimes being “nebulous and imprecise.”

May at a summit Friday made a beeline for Juncker and testily confronted him. She later says “that is the sort of discussion you are able to have when you’ve developed a working relationship and you work well together.”

May says Juncker assured her “he had been talking about a general level of debate,” and not about her personal state of mind.

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2:35 p.m.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has brushed off a question about quitting over the Brexit impasse.

She said Friday “there is a job to be done here” when asked if she would prefer to step down and retire to a desert island.

May said she had never expected the negotiations over Britain’s departure from the European Union to be easy and that it’s the duty of her Conservative government and Parliament to find a way forward.

May has faced opposition in Parliament this week from both her own party and the opposition and has been unable to convince EU leaders to renegotiate the Brexit agreement reached several weeks ago.

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2:25 p.m.

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May says she welcomes EU assurances on her Brexit deal, but says Parliament needs more. 

May said Friday that more remains to be done and that she expects the European Union will offer more. She says reassurances given by EU leaders have “legal status” and “should be welcomed.”

May says she will work expeditiously in the coming days to get the assurances U.K. lawmakers need.

EU leaders, however, have said they will not renegotiate the deal, which is unpopular with Britain’s Parliament.

1:35 p.m.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has pressed calls for a second referendum on Brexit.

Blair on Friday urged Prime Minister Theresa May to stop “banging her head against a brick wall” over the plan to leave the European Union.

The former leader say it would not be “that hard” for May to say she has done the best she could in the negotiations but is unable to find a solution that pleases Parliament.

He said it would be reasonable for her to then tell the British people to “decide what we’re going to do” in a public vote.

May has resisted all calls for another vote on Brexit, citing the June 2016 vote as definitive.

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1:15 p.m.

The morning after European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker criticized Britain for sometimes being “nebulous and imprecise,” Prime Minister Theresa May sought out the EU leader for a testy one-on-one ahead of the second day of summiteering.

Already one of the last to enter the summit room ahead of Friday’s session, May at one point made a beeline for Juncker and confronted him. Juncker got out of his chair to listen to her comments as May seemed rigid and angry in the tete-a-tete.

The exchange took seconds before Dutch prime Minister Mark Rutte came over and started talking to the two.

Juncker had been scathing late Thursday about the British efforts to push the Brexit withdrawal deal through its parliament.

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11:45 a.m.

Romania’s president has struck an optimistic note about the Brexit deal as his country prepares to take over the rotating presidency of the European Union for the first time.

Despite fierce opposition to the deal in the British Parliament, President Klaus Iohannis said Friday he expected “a positive vote from the British Parliament, not a summit.”

Iohannis said he’d meet British Prime Minister Theresa May later Friday “for a short bilateral, to encourage her a bit.”

Romania takes over the six-month EU presidency on Jan. 1. Britain’s departure from the bloc, due to take place on March 29, happens on its watch.

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11:05 a.m.

Luxembourg’s prime minister has put the blame for the continuing impasse over Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union clearly with the U.K. parliament and instead praised Prime Minister Theresa May for her efforts.

Xavier Bettel said that “Theresa May is clear. Westminster is not clear. The problem is the MPs in London,” highlighting how May’s fortunes to get the deal through fully lie with the House of Commons.

May already endorsed the withdrawal bill, but her chances of getting it through the U.K. parliament were so slim that she decided to postpone a vote on the deal likely until next month.

Bettel said that “for internal political reasons some people try to gamble the relations between the EU and the U.K. for the future. It’s bad. This is the best possible deal.”

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10:20 a.m.

Belgium’s prime minister says European Union leaders aren’t convinced that Britain can respect their Brexit agreement and they are planning for a potentially catastrophic “no-deal” scenario.

Charles Michel said Friday that “very objectively, the signals that we heard yesterday are not especially reassuring about the capacity in Britain to be able to honor the engagement that was undertaken.”

Referring to what he called a “gigantic doubt” that British Prime Minister Theresa May can get the deal through the U.K. Parliament, Michel added: “we are going to be sure to prepare for all hypotheses, including the hypothesis of a ‘no deal.'”

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10 a.m.

Croatia’s prime minister says European Union leaders could meet in January for a new Brexit summit once Britain clarifies exactly what help it needs to pass the deal in the U.K. Parliament.

Andrej Plenkovic said Friday that “if there is a need we can always convene, but nothing in that respect was concluded yesterday” during Brexit talks in Brussels.

British Prime Minister Theresa May canceled a vote in Parliament this week after it became clear the assembly would reject the Brexit deal she concluded with the EU.

EU leaders refuse outright to re-open the deal, but in a statement they did offer assurances about how it would work.

Plenkovic says that “text is a solid signal, first of all to the prime minister, but also to the U.K. Parliament.”

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