British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Sunday that she will be “armed with a fresh mandate and new ideas” next time she meets with European Union negotiators to discuss her Brexit deal.
EU officials have insisted that the deal, which has been rejected by British lawmakers, simply cannot be renegotiated.
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.
Downing Street said it had established “an Alternative Arrangements Working Group” to consider the backstop issue starting Monday, adding 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 worry that it will keep the UK 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.”
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 March 29 exit date rapidly approaching, officials on both sides are acutely aware of the risks of a no-deal Brexit for both Britain and the EU.
Blow to manufacturing
Nissan dealt May another blow on Sunday when it announced it was shifting future investment away from its largest European plant in Sunderland, northeast England, which employs 7,000 people.
The Japanese carmaker announced in 2016 that it planned to build its X-Trail model in Sunderland, but will now assemble it at its global production hub in Kyushu, Japan.
Several multinational firms, including Airbus and Ford, have said jobs could be lost if the negotiations lead to an unfavorable outcome.
– with reporting by Agence France-Presse