UK PM to meet EU leaders for Brexit talks


Theresa May is meeting European leaders and EU officials on Tuesday for talks aimed at rescuing her Brexit deal.

She is holding talks with Dutch PM, Mark Rutte, and Germany’s Angela Merkel after postponing a Commons vote on the deal.

The UK PM has said she needs “further assurances” about the Northern Ireland border plan to get backing from MPs.

European Commission President Jean Claude-Juncker said the EU would not “renegotiate” the deal but there was room for “further clarifications”.

The prime minister is understood to be seeking legal guarantees that the UK will not be trapped in the Northern Ireland backstop plan indefinitely.

Critics object to the backstop – a temporary customs arrangement designed to prevent the need for checkpoints at the Irish border if a long-term solution that avoids them cannot be agreed – because it imposes different regulations in Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.

They also object to the fact that under the terms of the withdrawal agreement, the UK cannot exit the backstop without the EU agreeing.

What is Theresa May asking for?

Commons leader Andrea Leadsom said Mrs May was seeking to give the UK Parliament a vote on whether to enter the backstop – and an annual vote on whether the country should remain in it.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this could be done in an “addendum” to the withdrawal agreement, without changing the main text of it.

Asked if this would be enough to satisfy critics of her deal, she said Mrs May was “absolutely determined to get a deal Parliament can vote for”.

In other Brexit developments

  • Commons leader Andrea Leadsom questioned Speaker John Bercow’s impartiality on Brexit
  • A Labour backbencher was expelled from the Commons after grabbing the ceremonial macein protest. As the symbol of royal authority in Parliament, the mace is required for the House to meet and pass laws; it has been seized several times by protesting MPs over the years
  • Former Prime Minister David Cameron insisted he had no regrets about calling the referendum, saying he had “made a promise” to do so
  • The Brexit secretary said policy “had not changed” despite a European court ruling the UK could cancel Brexitwithout permission from the other 27 EU members

What next for the vote on deal?

MPs have to give the go-ahead for Mrs May’s deal if it is to come into effect when the UK leaves the EU on 29 March.

But the PM did not a set a date for the issue to return to Parliament in her Commons statement on Monday.

Mrs Leadsom suggested talks with the EU could go right down to the wire, saying: “The EU is always in a position where it negotiates at the last possible moment.”—BBC

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