Theresa May won't rule out no-deal Brexit, to seek further concessions from EU

British Prime Minister Theresa May has sought to break the parliamentary deadlock over Brexit by proposing to seek further concessions from the European Union on a plan to prevent customs checks on the Irish border.

With little time left until the United Kingdom is due to leave the EU on March 29, there is no agreement in London on how and even whether it should leave the world's biggest trading bloc, and a growing chance of a dramatic "no-deal" Brexit with no provisions to soften the economic shock.

After her Brexit divorce deal with Brussels was rejected by MPs last Tuesday, Ms May has been searching for a way to get a deal through.

She told parliament she could not take a "no-deal" Brexit off the table as there was no approved alternative yet, and that the EU would be unlikely to postpone Britain's exit date - determined by the Article 50 withdrawal notice - without an exit plan.

"No-deal will only be taken off the table by either revoking Article 50, which turns back the results of the referendum - the government will not do that - or by having a deal, and that is what we are trying to work out," Ms May said.

She said another referendum would strengthen the hand of those seeking to break up the UK and could damage social cohesion by undermining faith in democracy.

Ms May vowed to be "more flexible" with MPs in trying to agree changes to the Northern Irish backstop.

"I will then take the conclusions of those discussions back to the EU," Ms May said. "My focus continues to be on what is needed to secure the support of this House in favour of a Brexit deal with the EU."

Hardline supporters of Brexit in Ms May's Conservative Party object above all to the fact that Britain cannot unilaterally end the backstop, which would keep it in a customs union with the EU until an alternative way of ensuring an open border is found. Brussels says this provision is non-negotiable.

The EU says it wants an orderly exit, but senior officials have expressed frustration and sorrow at London's deepening crisis.

German Europe Minister Michael Roth said on Monday that even William Shakespeare would not have been able to think up a Brexit tragedy of such drama.

Some MPs are planning to wrest control of the process from the government.

Ms May was forced to deny a report by the Daily Telegraph that she was considering amending the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which ended 30 years of violence in Northern Ireland. An open border with Ireland is widely seen as crucial to maintaining this peace.

Once the motion on Ms May's proposals is published, MPs will be able to suggest amendments with alternative proposals.

Ms May chided Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn for not taking part in cross-party talks, but he said Ms May was in denial about the failure of her deal.

"Her current deal is undeliverable," he said.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, chairman of the European Research Group of anti-EU MPs in Ms May's party, said Britain was most likely to leave without a deal.

But if the backstop were scrapped, he said most of the opposition from eurosceptics in Ms May's party would be removed.

Reuters

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