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Brexit: Theresa May to return to Brussels for further talks

Prime Minister Theresa May will return to Brussels later to continue Brexit talks with the European Union. She is trying to renegotiate the Irish backstop – the insurance policy to prevent the return of customs checks on the Irish border./news/uk-politics-47292833Read more about sharing.
These are external links and will open in a new window Related Topics Brexit Getty Images Mrs May is expected to request legally-binding assurances that the backstop will not extend indefinitely.However, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has said he does not expect a “breakthrough” in talks.
The backstop policy is part of the withdrawal agreement Mrs May agreed with the EU, and became one of the main reasons her Brexit deal was voted down in Parliament in January.Critics fear it would leave the UK tied to a customs union with the EU indefinitely and see Northern Ireland treated differently.
MPs gave their backing for Mrs May to renegotiate the policy in a vote earlier this month and said she was “working hard to secure the legally binding changes” that Parliament wants.But the EU has consistently refused to make changes.Tories ‘manipulated by Brexit zealots’Sturgeon to urge EU citizens to stay Brexit: A really simple guideChancellor Philip Hammond said on Tuesday evening the government accepted the EU will not agree to replace the backstop arrangements for the Irish border with technological alternatives in time for the scheduled date of Brexit on 29 March.The so-called “Malt house Compromise” – proposed by Remainers and Leavers – included proposals to use technology and checks away from the border to ensure the backstop was never activated.
But Mr Hammond said he hoped the technological solution would form part of negotiations over the following 21 months on the UK’s future relationship with the EU.He added that legally-binding changes to ensure the backstop does not become permanent “would deliver the core of a majority for a deal in the House of Commons”.
Leading Brexiteers Jacob Rees-Mogg and Steve Baker insisted they were happy with this arrangement, saying the Malt house proposals were “alive and kicking”.Media playback is unsupported on your device,Media caption Confused by Brexit jargon? Reality Check unpacks the basics Jeremy Corbyn also announced he would be going to Brussels to meet the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, on Thursday.
The Labour leader said they would discuss his party’s Brexit proposals – including a permanent customs union and a strong relationship with the single market – and that it was a “necessity” to take no deal off the table.The meeting, on the issue of the Irish backstop, was described as “productive” but Mr Barnier “expressed concerns”.At the time, a European Commission spokesman said: “The EU 27 will not reopen the withdrawal agreement. “We cannot accept a time limit to the backstop or a unilateral exit clause – and further talks will be held this week to see whether a way through can be found that would gain the broadest possible support in the UK parliament and respect the guidelines agreed by the European Council.
“Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, in a speech in Berlin later, will say all sides in the Brexit process have a “heavy responsibility” to ensure an agreement on the UK’s withdrawal is successfully reached.The PM has promised to return to Parliament to update MPs again on 26 February and, if she had not got a new deal by then, to give them a say on the next steps in non-binding votes.

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