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UK PM in Last-Minute Push for Brexit   03/18 08:16





   Parliament has rejected the agreement twice, but May aims to try a third 
time this week if she can persuade enough lawmakers to change their minds. Her 
aim is to have the deal agreed before EU leaders meet Thursday for a summit in 

   May's goal is to win over Northern Ireland's small, power-brokering 
Democratic Unionist Party. The DUP's 10 lawmakers prop up May's Conservative 
government, and their support could influence pro-Brexit Conservatives to drop 
their opposition to the deal.

   Still, May faces a struggle to reverse the huge margins of defeat for the 
agreement in Parliament. It was rejected by 230 votes in January and by 149 
votes last week.

   Influential Conservative Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg said he would wait to see 
what the DUP decided before making up his mind on whether to support May's deal.

   "No deal is better than a bad deal, but a bad deal is better than remaining 
in the European Union," he told LBC radio.

   British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Monday he saw "cautious signs of 
encouragement" that the deal might make it through Parliament this week.

   After months of political deadlock, British lawmakers voted last week to 
seek to postpone Brexit. That will likely avert a chaotic British withdrawal on 
the scheduled exit date of March 29 -- although the power to approve or reject 
a Brexit extension lies with the EU, whose leaders are fed up with British 

   May is likely to ask for an extension at the Brussels summit, and EU leaders 
say they will only grant it if Britain has a solid plan for what to do with the 
extra time.

   "We have to know what the British want: How long, what is the reason 
supposed to be, how it should go, what is actually the aim of the extension?" 
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters in Brussels. "The longer it 
is delayed, the more difficult it will certainly be."

   Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders agreed, saying: "We are not against 
an extension in Belgium, but the problem is -- to do what?"

   Opposition to May's deal centers on a measure designed to ensure there is no 
hard border between the U.K.'s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland after 

   The mechanism, known as the backstop, is a safeguard that would keep the 
U.K. in a customs union with the EU until a permanent new trading relationship 
is in place. Brexit supporters in Britain fear the backstop could be used to 
bind the country to EU regulations indefinitely, and the DUP fears it could 
lead to a weakening of the bonds between Northern Ireland and the rest of the 

   Talks between the government and the DUP are aimed at reassuring the party 
that Britain could not be trapped in the backstop indefinitely.

   May has said that if her deal is approved by Parliament this week, she will 
ask the EU to delay Brexit until June 30 so that Parliament has time to approve 
the necessary legislation. If it isn't, she will have to seek a longer 
extension that could mean Britain participating in May 23-26 elections for the 
European Parliament.

   May said in an article for the Sunday Telegraph that failure to approve the 
deal meant "we will not leave the EU for many months, if ever."

   "The idea of the British people going to the polls to elect MEPs (Members of 
the European Parliament) three years after voting to leave the EU hardly bears 
thinking about," she wrote.

   But May suffered a setback Monday when former Foreign Secretary Boris 
Johnson refused to support her deal.

   Johnson, a staunch Brexiteer, used his column in the Daily Telegraph to 
argue that the backstop left the U.K. vulnerable to "an indefinite means of 
blackmail" by Brussels.



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