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Theresa May to unveil new Brexit strategy

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British Prime Minister Theresa May unveils her Brexit “ Plan B ” to parliament on Monday after MPs shredded her EU divorce deal , deepening the political gridlock 10 weeks from departure day .Britain will crash out of the European Union on March 29 unless MPs can force a delay or come up with an alternative plan that Brussels is also happy with , before the deadline .

London and Brussels have spent the best part of two years working on the divorce deal but MPs in parliament ’ s lower House of Commons comprehensively rejected it on Tuesday .

EU leaders have signalled they could alter the agreement if May dropped some of her negotiating “ red lines ” but British media on Monday reported that she would instead attempt to negotiate some changes to the existing agreement .
The reports were met with scepticism in Europe .

“ I don’ t think it can be saved by marginal adjustments in the current plan . I don’ t think she can convince MPs by presenting the same thing to them with slight tweaks, ” Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said in Brussels .

“ It , therefore , has to present something substantially different . ”

Asked if he would change the Brexit deal , Slovakia ’ s Miroslav Lajcak said : “ Why? So you want the EU to be a bigger loser than the UK ? Is this what you really want ?

“ This is a fair deal that 27 members strongly support so I would really not touch , ” he said .

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After surviving a Commons confidence vote on Wednesday , May last week reached out to opposition parties to seek a compromise solution but the talks appear to have fallen through.

Jeremy Corbyn , leader of the main opposition Labour Party stayed away , saying that a “ no – deal ” departure must be ruled out first — something May says is impossible .

– Amendments –

After May sets out her plans for the way ahead , lawmakers are set to table a series of amendments , to be voted upon on January 29 .

At least two groups of MPs are planning to table amendments to enable backbenchers to delay Brexit and prevent Britain leaving the EU with no agreement .

One of the proposals would enable MPs to debate and vote on Brexit issues , giving them far greater influence over government strategy .

May ’ s Downing Street office has called them “ extremely concerning ” .

“ You’ ve got a Leave population and a Remain parliament , ” International Trade Secretary Liam Fox , one of the senior Brexiteers in May ’ s cabinet , said on Sunday .

“ Parliament has not got the right to hijack the Brexit process … and in fact steal the result from the people , ” he told BBC television .

Britain voted by a 52 – 48 margin in favour of leaving the EU in a referendum in 2016 that exposed deep divisions in British society .

– Irish backstop –

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One of the most problematic areas of the divorce deal is the so- called backstop on the Irish border — a legal guarantee that the frontier would remain free – flowing if Britain and the EU cannot agree a long -term free trade pact .

Changes in the backstop could help win over Conservative eurosceptics , and the party’ s Democratic Unionist allies that May counts upon for a majority in parliament .

Graham Brady , who chairs the committee of backbench Conservative MPs, said he thought May could get her Brexit deal past Conservative rebels if the Irish backstop “ can be sorted out ” .

“ So much of the vote against was from people who simply cannot support a potentially permanent backstop , if that can be sorted out then I think we might get that withdrawal agreement through, ” he told BBC radio.

He said it was in Ireland’ s interests to help Britain leave the EU with a deal , saying they would be far more hurt by a no – deal Brexit that Britain as most of their trade comes through the UK .

But Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said Sunday that he and Prime Minister Leo Varadkar were in no mood to support alterations to the withdrawal agreement ( WA ) or the backstop.

“ We remain united and focused on protecting Ireland , ” he said .

“ That includes continued support for the EU / UK agreed WA in full, including the backstop as negotiated. ”

( AFP )

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