UK's May says 'armed with fresh' Brexit mandate

File: EU officials have insisted that the deal -- rejected by British lawmakers -- is not open for renegotiation.

File: EU officials have insisted that the deal -- rejected by British lawmakers -- is not open for renegotiation.

AFP

LONDON - British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Sunday she would be "armed with a fresh mandate and new ideas" when she next meets European Union negotiators over her Brexit deal.

EU officials have insisted that the deal -- rejected by British lawmakers -- is not open for renegotiation.

But May wrote in the Sunday Telegraph that she would be "battling for Britain and Northern Ireland" in her efforts to get rid of the agreement's unpopular "backstop" provision.

"If we stand together and speak with one voice, I believe we can find the right way forward," she said.

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Downing Street said it had established "an Alternative Arrangements Working Group" to mull the backstop issue starting on Monday, and added that "there are a number of ideas on this, including a unilateral exit mechanism or a time limit".

The so-called backstop is intended to ensure there is no return to a hard border with Ireland, but Brexit supporters fear it will keep Britain tied to the EU's customs rules.

MPs voted last week to send May back to Brussels to renegotiate the clause, suggesting that her deal would then be able to pass after it was roundly rejected in parliament last month.

"I am now confident there is a route that can secure a majority in the House of Commons for leaving the EU with a deal," she wrote.

"When I return to Brussels I will be battling for Britain and Northern Ireland, I will be armed with a fresh mandate, new ideas and a renewed determination to agree a pragmatic solution."

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The EU insists that the current deal "remains the best and only way to ensure an orderly withdrawal", and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Sunday that "if the British want to avoid a disorderly Brexit, our offer is on the table".

But with the clock running down until the March 29 exit date the risks of a no-deal Brexit for both Britain and the bloc are coming into sharp focus.

Source
AFP