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Theresa May holds talks with Jean-Claude Juncker in latest attempt to break Brexit deal standoff

2 min read

Theresa May has held fresh talks with Jean-Claude Juncker as she tries to win enough concessions from the EU to persuade MPs to back her Brexit deal.

Downing Street refused to provide any details of the phone call, simply describing the conversation between the Prime Minister and EU Commission president as "friendly". 

A spokeswoman for the EU Commision said the two leaders "agreed to stay in touch next week", when Parliament re-starts its debate on the Withdrawal Agreement.

Mrs May is working to gain legal assurances that the so-called "backstop" arrangements designed to avoid the return of a hard border in Ireland cannot be permanent.

Tory rebels and the DUP have warned the Prime Minister that without such a guarantee, they cannot support her plan.

Asked if there was any way his party could back Mrs May's deal, DUP Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson said "no there is not".

He added: "It is not just because of the regulations which Northern Ireland would be subject to with the backstop, but also the fact we would have to treat the rest of the UK as a third country and we would not participate in any trade deals which the UK may enter into the future".

EU sources told The Guardian that the "surgical removal" of the backstop, which some eurosceptic MPs have called for, was “not remotely possible”.

They added it was "still not clear" what Mrs May had sought to achieve with her latest round of phone calls to EU leaders, including recent conversations with German Chancellor Angela Merkl and President of the EU Council, Donald  Tusk.

Downing Street is thought to be considering a second parliamentary vote very quickly after the first, which is due on 15 January, if the Government is defeated. The hope is that MPs would change their minds if the first vote caused wider public concern and troubles in the financial markets.

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