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EU has a Brexit message for May - Irish backstop is our red line

The British union flag and the EU flag are seen hanging outside of a building near a traffic direction sign in London, Britain, January 27, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville

DUBLIN/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union has a message for British Prime Minister Theresa May as she plots a path out of the Brexit impasse: a backup plan for the Irish border can be tweaked but will have to be included in any divorce deal.

With less than nine weeks until the United Kingdom is due by law to leave the European Union on March 29, there is no agreement yet in London on how and even whether to leave the world’s biggest trading bloc.

Parliament defeated May’s deal two weeks ago by a huge margin with many Brexit-supporting rebels in her Conservative Party angry at the Irish backstop, an insurance policy aimed at preventing a hard border in Ireland if no other solutions can be agreed.

Ahead of Tuesday’s votes in the British parliament on a way forward, MPs in May’s party are pushing for her to demand the European Union drop the backstop and replace it with something else.

Ireland said the backstop was staying and the European Commission repeated on Monday that the withdrawal agreement text, and its backstop component, is not open for renegotiation.


Graham Fahy, Alastair Macdonald

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