Published: Mon, March 11, 2019
Markets | By Erika Turner

May suffers fresh setback in Brexit deal negotiations

May suffers fresh setback in Brexit deal negotiations

MPs rejected the prime minister's deal by 230 votes in January - the largest defeat for a sitting government in history.

The current deal took 18 months to negotiate between the EU and the United Kingdom and May has been seeking concessions from her European counterparts on the backstop issue to help get it through the Commons.

May warned on Friday that were lawmakers to reject her deal on Tuesday, it would increase the chance that Brexit never happens, leaving voters feeling betrayed.

Amid the political chaos, many company chiefs are aghast at London's handling of Brexit and say it has already damaged Britain's reputation as Europe's pre-eminent destination for foreign investment.

There had been speculation the Prime Minister could fly out to Brussels early on Monday to clinch a deal if an agreement on the backstop - meant to prevent the return of a hard border on the island of Ireland - was within grasp.

"EU commits to give United Kingdom the option to exit the Single Customs Territory unilaterally, while the other elements of the backstop must be maintained to avoid a hard border", Mr Barnier tweeted after briefing ambassadors of the 27 European Union states that are staying on together after Brexit.

It would keep Britain in the EU's customs union and parts of its single market until and unless another way - such as a trade deal - is found to avoid frontier checks.

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Britain can not accept an European Union proposal to break the deadlock in the Brexit talks because it would threaten the unity of the United Kingdom by treating Northern Ireland differently, the chairman of the ruling Conservative Party said.

It was unclear whether his comments, in a series of tweets, were intended as a new offer or simply a restatement of the EU's position after his talks on Tuesday with Attorney General Geoffrey Cox and Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay failed to reach agreement.

"Business is holding its breath ahead of the votes in parliament this week, knowing that if Brexit has taught us anything, it is to expect the unexpected", said James Stewart, head of Brexit at KPMG UK. "Let's do what is necessary for MPs (members of Parliament) to back the deal on Tuesday".

"With a very real deadline looming, now is not the time to rerun old..."

Labour has said it would back a delay of a few months, during which it will try to persuade MPs to back its alternative plan for an EU-UK customs union after Brexit. "We now need to agree a balanced solution that can work for both sides". "In everything that followed there would be total uncertainty - that would be the only certainty", health minister Matt Hancock told Sky News.

They want Mrs May to change this aspect of the deal.

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