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May still hopes for changes to Brexit deal

15 March 2019
May still hopes for changes to Brexit deal

This week marks a turning point for Britain and Brexit.

"We really want to be over with it now".

The prime minister has since been trying to negotiate changes to the agreement, in particular regarding the highly unpopular backstop provision, which is created to ensure a frictionless Irish border and would, as many fear, tie the United Kingdom to the EU customs union.

"The risk of a no-deal has never been higher", chief European Union negotiator Michel Barnier said.

What's the first big vote this week?

The U.K. Parliament has twice rejected the withdrawal agreement that May spent two years negotiating with the European Union, and the bloc insists there will be no more talks.

"I have got to say that if you look at what the prime minister has said so far it seems to fall short of what she, herself, had promised".

Some protections for British producers would remain in place, including for the country's carmakers and beef, lamb, pork, poultry and dairy farmers. That could provoke violence, given the border's violent political history.

May hoped the changes would be enough to overturn the 230-vote margin of defeat for the deal in January.

The government said it would not apply a tariff regime and customs border on goods transiting across the land border from Ireland to Northern Ireland but admitted that this created a "potential for exploitation" if those goods are then transported across the sea to mainland Britain for sale.

No Majority in British Parliament for Second Brexit Referendum: Reuters Analysis

The deadlocked talks effectively open up the prospect of either a last-minute deal, probably around the time of an European Union summit on March 21-22, or a delay to Brexit. The EU - openly exasperated by Britain's continuing Brexit crisis - warned that the United Kingdom would need to present a strong reason for any extension. Parliament must approve the deal before it can be ratified.

Lidington said lawmakers faced "a fundamental vote for the improved deal or to plunge this country into a political crisis".

British Prime Minister Theresa May will hold a so-called meaningful vote on her Brexit deal on Tuesday as planned, her spokesman said after media reports that she could downgrade the status of the vote.

"But we will do all we can to support people and businesses across Northern Ireland in the event that we leave without a deal". May flew to Strasbourg, France, to seek revisions, guarantees or other changes from European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker that would persuade reluctant British legislators to back her withdrawal agreement with the EU, which they resoundingly rejected in January. He said the British have already said what they don't want, and now "it's up to the British to say what they want".

May, who is against a delay, has said Brexit could only be postponed until the end of June, at the latest. "Now this impasse can only be solved in the U.K".

How long is this going to drag out?

Brexit-supporting MPs reacted cautiously to news of the agreement, but said they wanted to examine the detail.

The Prime Minister was warned that her position could be in jeopardy unless she stuck to commitments she made about this week's votes. The response of the DUP and ERG (Brexiteer Tories) will be crucial in helping May get her deal passed. She survived a bid to oust her through a no-confidence vote in December.

Opposition Labour Party Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer said "a no-deal Brexit could be terminal for Britain's manufacturing". Even her many detractors in the party have been reluctant to dump her in the midst of Brexit negotiations.