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Theresa May tells EU 'just one more push' as new Brexit votes loom

  • Published at 10:29 pm March 8th, 2019
Theresa May
British Prime Minister Theresa May delivers a speech during her visit in Grimsby, Lincolnshire, Britain March 8, 2019 Reuters

So far there is little sign of May getting the concessions from Brussels that she says would reverse her previous defeat

British Prime Minister Theresa May urged the European Union to make "just one more push" to break an impasse on Brexit before she tries to get parliament to back her deal next week.

Lawmakers are due to vote on May's Brexit plan for a second time on Tuesday, two months after roundly rejecting it and less than three weeks before Britain's is due to leave the bloc.

So far there is little sign of May getting the concessions from Brussels that she says would reverse her previous defeat.

"It needs just one more push to address the final, specific concerns of our parliament," May said in a speech in Grimsby, a port town in northern England where 70 percent of voters backed the decision to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum.

"So let's not hold back. Let's do what is necessary for MPs to back the deal on Tuesday," she said, warning that "no-one knows what will happen" if it is rejected.

London and Brussels are at loggerheads over the so-called Northern Irish backstop, which seeks to prevent the return of physical border controls between Northern Ireland and Ireland - the only land frontier between the United Kingdom and the bloc.

May wants legally binding assurances from the EU that Britain will not be trapped permanently in the backstop, which involves keeping Britain in a customs union with the bloc.

Many business leaders are alarmed at the prospect of leaving the bloc's single market, which underpins many of their operations, with no transition arrangements to soften the shock.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said the British, not the EU, had to compromise, and the decision to leave the bloc had been "a problem of their own creation."

EU diplomats, responding to excerpts of May’s speech released overnight, said she was preparing to blame the bloc for a fresh defeat of her plan.

"We are expecting a blame game after she loses the second 'meaningful vote' next week, so it looks like she is already preparing the ground for this," one of the diplomats said.

May has said that, if her plan is defeated on Tuesday, lawmakers will be able to vote on Wednesday and Thursday on whether they want to leave the bloc without a deal, or ask for a short delay to Brexit.

Her top lawyer returned empty-handed from negotiations with the EU this week, and the EU told Britain to rework its Irish backstop proposal by Friday.