Feuding UK politicians seek elusive unity as Brexit looms

Feuding UK politicians seek elusive unity as Brexit looms

Feuding UK politicians seek elusive unity as Brexit looms

British Prime Minister Theresa May is due in Brussels on Thursday with what she says is a parliamentary mandate to re-open the draft agreement, sealed after 18 months of intense and highly technical negotiations.

A divorce deal between Britain and the European Union is in danger because U.K lawmakers have rejected a section of the agreement meant to ensure there is no hard border between the U.K.'s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland.

Prime Minister Theresa May will travel to Brussels on Thursday (7 February) to tell the leaders of European Union institutions only binding changes to the Irish border arrangements can avoid a hard Brexit, while Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar touches down in Brussels on Wednesday.

The EU will not renegotiate the divorce deal and the Irish backstop but alternatives could be worked on after Britain leaves, chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier said on Monday. "We don't see a time limit as being the answer, because time limit can be extended", Robin Swann said after the meeting.

The Withdrawal Agreement had been voted down in the House of Commons last month over the backstop, which could permanently lock Northern Ireland in regulatory alignment with the European Union should London and Brussels not agree a deal on their future relationship by the end of the transition period in December 2020.

British Prime Minister Theresa May told business leaders in Belfast Tuesday she backs the idea of Britain and the Irish Republic co-hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2030.

Mrs May has previously insisted that "alternative arrangements" to the Irish backstop were under her consideration after her previous Withdrawal Agreement was roundly rejected by Parliament.

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They both underlined that preparations are being intensified for a potentially disastrous no-deal scenario under which Britain would leave the European Union without an agreement. "It must be how, together, we move forwards to shape the opportunities of the future".

May is not expected to present a formal set of proposals at meetings in Brussels on Thursday, nor is there much expectation that she will return to parliament next week with a deal that lawmakers can vote to approve or reject.

"I think events in London and the instability in British politics in recent weeks demonstrates exactly why we need a legal guarantee and solution that's operable and that we know will work and last", he said.

However a separate Brexiteer source said Tories could accept the backstop if there was a clear unilateral exit mechanism, which appears a more likely compromise with the EU.

Critics of the backstop argue its lack of any agreed time-limit is unacceptable as it could see the United Kingdom locked into a customs union deal with the EU indefinitely and Northern Ireland kept under EU single market rules.

The free flow of people and goods across the near-invisible border today underpins both the local economy and Northern Ireland's peace process. That is, while the UK Cabinet and EU-27 agreed the backstop a year ago, many Brexiteers in May's Conservative Party, and also MPs representing the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), who are propping up the government, are vehemently opposed.

The utility of the Northern Ireland protocol has been questioned with Corbyn referring to "various issues surrounding the problems of the backstop" being raised in the meeting with May, saying it was "a problem where we go into an agreement which is one-sided".

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