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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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May heads to Brussels for Brexit crisis talks

LONDON (AFP) – British Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday prepared to head to Brussels for talks on the Brexit crisis, even though EU leaders have refused any renegotiation of the deal she agreed with them in December.
With just five weeks to go until Brexit on March 29, the deal has been blocked by the British parliament and the country appears headed for a chaotic exit that economists warn will wreak havoc in both Britain and the European Union.May is due to meet European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker at 1730 GMT on Wednesday, two days after Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay and Attorney General Geoffrey Cox visited the EU headquarters.The visit also comes a day before Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, is expected to meet the EU s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier as part of a diplomatic ballet aimed at heading off a no-deal Brexit.May s spokesman said the prime minister was working hard to secure legally binding changes to the backstop – a controversial part of the withdrawal agreement she signed with EU leaders at a summit in December.The backstop would keep Britain in the EU customs union and give Northern Ireland a different economic status from mainland Britain until a way is found to ensure there is no return to a hard border with EU member Ireland.Stefaan De Rynck, a senior advisor to Barnier, warned in London Tuesday that there will be no reopening of the withdrawal agreement, saying there was zero appetite among the other 27 EU countries.He refused to say whether the EU would impose a border in the event of a no deal Brexit, adding that in such a situation, the actions taken by Britain in the first weeks and months.would be terribly crucial for future of this country.May s deal was overwhelmingly rejected by British MPs last month in a vote that united Conservative pro-EU moderates and Brexit hardliners in opposition.
May has since said she will seek to renegotiate the deal to the dismay of European allies who have repeatedly warned her against using time pressure in an attempt to extract concessions.The EU need to work with us in order to give parliament the insurance it needs, May s spokesman said, adding: The prime minister believes that she can secure changes in relation to the backstop MPs want — there is a majority in parliament for a deal.May s critics accuse her of wasting time before holding another vote in parliament on her deal, hoping that the looming deadline will change MPs minds.Speaking at a manufacturing conference in London, Corbyn said May was being extraordinarily reckless in her Brexit strategy.This government is running down the clock, he said.The Labour leader promised that his party would keep all options on the table, including the option of a public vote.
A lifelong eurosceptic, Corbyn has come under intense pressure from within his party to push more forcefully for a second referendum.He has instead urged May to agree to negotiate for Labour s Brexit plan, which would involve agreeing to Britain staying permanently in the EU customs union.
EU leaders have repeatedly said they will not renegotiate the legally-binding withdrawal agreement but could make changes to an accompanying political declaration with more long-term trade aims.We cannot accept a time limit to the backstop or a unilateral exit clause, Juncker s spokesman Margaritis Schinas said on Tuesday.
But former European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso told a Euronews Brexit conference in London that the EU could pull off an impossible compromise.It is possible, with some creativity and imagination, to find some kind of compromise, he said.There is still some room for negotiation.He added that the European Commission has a remarkable capacity to find compromises that seem impossible until they are done.

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