May tours Europe, meets EU leaders to secure last-ditch concessions in Brexit deal
British Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday embarked on a whistle-stop tour of Europe in a desperate bid to rescue her Brexit deal, trying to convince the EU leaders to offer some concessions so that she could persuade Britain's MPs to support it.
A day after she postponed a crucial parliamentary vote scheduled for Tuesday over the Withdrawal Agreement struck with the European Union (EU), May went to The Hague to hold talks with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and then Berlin for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, seeking "further assurances" over the controversial Northern Ireland border plan.
"The EU is always in a position where it negotiates at the last possible moment," said House of Commons leader Andrea Leadsom in reference to the talks.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who will hold talks with May in Brussels, said the EU would not "renegotiate" the deal but there was room for "further clarifications".
"The deal that we have achieved is the best deal possible, it is the only deal possible," he reiterated.
Britain's MPs have to give the go-ahead for May's deal if it is to come into effect when the UK leaves the EU on Brexit Day March 29, 2019. But deep divisions remain on all sides of the House of Commons over the so-called "backstop", a temporary customs arrangement designed to prevent the need for checkpoints at the Irish border if a long-term solution between the UK and the EU cannot be agreed post Brexit.
Critics of the arrangement are unhappy that under the terms of the legally-binding Withdrawal Agreement, the UK cannot exit the backstop without the EU agreeing to it, which could effectively leave the UK bound by EU customs laws beyond Brexit.
Downing Street has said a House of Commons vote on the agreement will be held on the deal before January 21, as that is the deadline enshrined in the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018.
"We will be keeping with the spirit of the act, and by doing so the government will ensure that the withdrawal agreement is brought back to the house before January 21," a Downing Street spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, May's own position as Prime Minister hangs in the balance, with her U-turn over the Brexit vote sparking anger among MPs on all sides, who had spent three days debating the deal and had been promised a final say on it on Tuesday.
"What is she doing in Europe? This runaway prime minister is not even seeking to negotiate. She confirmed she is only seeking reassurances. Our Prime Minister is traipsing round the continent in pursuit of warm words," said Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.
More backbench MPs from May's own Conservative Party are reportedly considering submitting letters of no confidence in her leadership, in the hope of toppling her and forcing a Tory leadership contest.
(This article has not been edited by Zeebiz editorial team and is auto-generated from an agency feed.)
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