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British Prime Minister Theresa May secures 'legally
binding' changes to Brexit deal ahead of a key vote

by Larry Neild LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- British Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday secured "legally binding" changes to her Brexit deal just less than 24 hours before a meaningful vote in the parliament on it, according to senior British official here.

David Lidington, the British Cabinet Office minister, told the House of Commons that the parliament will vote on this "improved" deal on Tuesday.

The changes "strengthen and improve" the withdrawal agreement that will see the UK leave the EU, as well as its future relationship with the bloc, said Lidington, who is the prime minister’s de facto deputy.

May, who is fighting to save her Brexit deal with the European Union (EU), arrived in Strasbourg late Monday for last-ditch talks with senior EU officials in order to have the withdrawal agreement passed in the parliament.

At a press conference in Strasbourg, Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, said that the Irish backstop, the bilateral agreement aimed at avoiding a harder border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, is "an insurance policy."

Also speaking at the press conference, May said that the latest agreement is legally binding, just like the withdrawal agreement.

The Democratic Unionist Party, a party from Northern Ireland which props up May’s government, said Monday night that it will carefully study the latest EU-UK agreement.

Earlier Monday, the European Commission voiced its hope that the members of parliament will back the EU-UK agreement, adding that it is up to them to decide what the country will do in next step on Brexit.

The UK is due to leave the EU on March 29, but MPs rejected May’s withdrawal deal by a large margin in January and demanded major changes. Before her Monday trip to the European continent, May has failed to secure significant concessions from Brussels.

If May’s deal is voted down on Tuesday in the parliament, she then faces a possible defeat on a second vote on Wednesday to prevent a no-deal Brexit on March 29, and a third vote on Thursday to extend the Article 50 divorce process—likely until the end of June.

Lidington said the British government would Monday night lay two new documents to the House of Commons—a joint legally binding instrument on the withdrawal agreement and a joint statement to supplement the political declaration on Britain’s future relationship with the EU.

The so-called breakthrough came after what were described as last throw of the dice by May to save her Brexit deal.

Throughout Monday, the political landscape continually changed as politicians predicted May would lose Tuesday’s vote by as many as 150 votes.

When May presented her deal to MPs in January it lost by 230, the biggest defeat in British political history.

Opponents to her deal, especially in her Conservative Party, say they will never accept a deal that risks keeping Britain allied to EU rules.

May and her government now face a waiting game to see how parliament will react to the latest developments.

May is to open a debate in the House of Commons Tuesday that will conclude Tuesday night with a vote on the "improved" deal she has brokered with the EU on Britain’s relationship after it ends its membership of the regional bloc.

Keir Starmer, chief Brexit spokesman for the main opposition Labour Party, said meanwhile he expected MPs from his party to reject the deal in Tuesday’s vote.

The Daily Telegraph newspaper in London described Monday as a day of "frenetic diplomacy" ahead of Tuesday’s parliamentary vote.

The Irish government’s cabinet also held an unscheduled meeting Monday evening to discuss Brexit as events unfolded in Strasbourg.

The border between Ireland and Northern Ireland had been the major stumbling block on the quest to find a Brexit deal agreeable to both Britain, Ireland and the EU.


British PM May faces Brexit vote defeat as hopes fade of last-minute rescue

by Larry Neild LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- Unless there is a last-minute breakthrough, British Prime Minister Theresa May’s under-fire Brexit deal faces almost certain defeat in Britain’s House of Commons on Tuesday.

With just 24 hours before a crucial debate starts in the famous chamber at Westminster, the only hope of avoiding that expected defeat is a change of heart by European Union (EU) officials on the so-called Irish border issue.

However, the indications from Brussels are that no significant moves will be forthcoming from the EU.

Negotiators from both sides remained in Brussels Monday to see if there is any way of resolving the impasse over the border issue that has led to the deal hitting a brick wall.

The way events in London unravel in the next few days could determine whether May will survive at 10 Downing Street, according to media speculation.

The EU has insisted a so-called "backstop" is necessary as a way of ensuring there will be no hard border between British-controlled Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic if no permanent trading deal is found.

Many politicians in Britain fear that implementing the backstop provision at some stage could lock Britain into indefinitely having to follow EU rules on customs and trading.

In January, May presented her Brexit deal to the House of Commons and it was beaten by 230 votes, the biggest ever defeat in British political history.

The expectations are that on Tuesday May could lose again by as many as 150 votes.

But a defeat would plunge Britain into unchartered waters with Brexit day looming on March 29.

May’s government confirmed Monday its intention to put its Brexit deal to the House of Commons on Tuesday, but it remained unclear what the wording will say.

Media reports in London Monday said that a number of caveats may be added to the motion May will present in the hope of winning over more MPs.

The Daily Telegraph said May met her senior aides Monday to decide whether to replace Tuesday’s vote on her Brexit deal with a conditional motion, which would set out the kind of Brexit deal that would be acceptable to Parliament.

Political commentators say that while changing the wording might help mitigate the damage, the vote still faced a mountain to climb.

MPs were also, said some reports, likely to react with anger if May attempts to change her promise of a meaningful vote on her Brexit deal.

Downing Street has confirmed that if May loses the vote on Tuesday, MPs will still get to vote on a no-deal Brexit, and then on extending Article 50 of the Treaty on the EU, which began the UK’s withdrawal.

In a radio interview Monday, Conservative MP George Freeman described the situation as a very, very serious crisis. He said Theresa May should quit as prime minster after Brexit.

Freeman said: "I hope the prime minister can get withdrawal through and then I do think we need to choose a new leader for a new generation with a new vision of a conservatism that can make sense of Brexit and re-inspire and reunite the nation."


Brexit negotiations tread water as British MPs prepare to vote


Brexit Vote Looming, Theresa May Secures E.U. Help - Prime
Minister is facing a critical vote in U.K. Parliament on Tuesday



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