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May wins Brexit legally binding assurances from EU ahead of crucial votes

British Prime Minister Theresa May clinched legally binding Brexit assurances from the European Union on Monday in a last ditch attempt to win over rebellious British lawmakers who have threatened to vote down her divorce deal again.
Scrambling to plot an orderly path out of the Brexit maze just days before the United Kingdom is due to leave on March 29, May rushed to Strasbourg to agree additional assurances with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
Brexiteers in May's party accuse her of surrendering to the EU and it was not clear if the assurances she agreed would be enough to win over the 116 additional lawmakers she needs turn around the crushing defeat her deal suffered on Jan 15.
May has secured "legally binding changes that strengthen and improve the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration," Cabinet Office David Lidington, who is Prime Minister Theresa May's de facto deputy, told parliament.
Lidington said the sides had agreed a joint legally binding instrument on the Withdrawal Agreement and Protocol on Northern Ireland that confirms the EU cannot try to "trap" the United Kingdom in the Irish backstop indefinitely.
They have also agreed a joint statement to supplement the Political Declaration, Lidington said.
May has promised lawmakers a vote on her deal on Tuesday.
If she loses that vote, she has said lawmakers will get a vote on Wednesday on whether to leave without a deal and, if they reject that, then a vote on whether to ask for a limited delay to Brexit.
The focus of talks in Strasbourg is the backstop, an emergency fix aimed at avoiding controls on the sensitive border between the British province of Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland.
Many British lawmakers object to the backstop on the grounds that it could leave Britain subject to EU rules indefinitely or cleave Northern Ireland away from the rest of the United Kingdom.


© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2019.
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