U.K. Admits Trade Deals With Japan, Korea Unlikely Before Brexit

U.K. Admits Trade Deals With Japan, Korea Unlikely Before Brexit

Theresa May is returning to Brussels to seek legal assurances on the Brexit backstop, amid signs she has persuaded key Tory eurosceptics to consider backing her Withdrawal Agreement.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the EU's most senior official, declared that Brexit was "in God's hands" on Monday, as he said Brussels would be open to delaying Brexit if it avoided a "no deal" scenario.

Theresa May insisted she had made progress on the Brexit backstop last night amid signs that her deal could be put back before MPs next week.

Britain is due to abruptly leave the European Union and all of its institutions on March 29 unless it agrees to the Brexit deal secured by Theresa May.

Instead, it is likely to be a legal assurance that the backstop is temporary. The EU refuses to budge, at least as far as changing the 585-page legally binding Brexit agreement is concerned.

May has until 27 February to secure European Union concessions on the backstop or face another series of Brexit votes in the House of Commons, where lawmakers want changes to the withdrawal deal.

"The Prime Minister has been very clear that we intend to leave on March 29, that's what Article 50 says and that's what our domestic legislation says", he said.

"We cannot accept a time limit to the backstop or a unilateral exit clause - and further talks will be held this week to see whether a way through can be found that would gain the broadest possible support in the United Kingdom parliament and respect the guidelines agreed by the European Council".

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A joint statement issued following the meeting said: "The two leaders agreed that talks had been constructive and they urged their respective teams to continue to explore the options in a positive spirit".

Officials said it was unlikely a deal would be formally reached at the meeting because that would require a full council of all 27 European Union countries.

"With just 37 days until Brexit, Theresa May must accept that her historic defeats in parliament and complete failure to reach a new deal mean her approach has failed".

Member states are obliged to hold polls between 23 and 26 May to elect a new European Parliament, which will start sitting from 2 July, presumably without any British members.

The decision of three Conservative lawmakers to quit their party over what they called the government's "disastrous handling of Brexit" has compounded doubts over May's ability to get any EU-UK deal approved.

"If you are asking for how long the withdrawal can be postponed, I have no timeframe in mind... Tomorrow is obviously a significant meeting between the prime minister and president Juncker as part of that process", the spokesperson told reporters, adding that if there was no vote on whether to approve a revised Brexit deal by next week, parliament would again have the chance to consider the next steps.

Jeremy Corbyn also announced he would be going to Brussels to meet the EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, on Thursday.

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