Theresa May fights on to save her Brexit deal as critics circle

Leo Varadkar

Leo Varadkar

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has said the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement on offer is the "best deal possible" and the "only deal possible", with "no room whatsoever for renegotiation".

The backstop is the insurance policy arrangement aimed at avoiding the return of a hard border - physical checkpoints or infrastructure - along the 310-mile (500-km) border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland after Brexit.

He said: "We have a common determination to do everything to be not in a situation one day to use that backstop but we have to prepare".

"But we have to prepare: it's necessary for the entire coherence of what we have agreed with Britain and it is necessary for Ireland".

"The backstop would have left Northern Ireland trapped as a hostage to the European Union".

His comments come as Mrs May held talks with her Dutch counterpart March Rutte in The Hague as she began a last-minute bid to seek changes to the backstop following yesterday's turmoil in the House of Commons.

Mrs May brushed aside speculation about her future, saying her focus was on "dealing with the issue".

A DUP spokesperson said party leader Arlene Foster is still due to meet Mrs May on Wednesday afternoon at 13:30 GMT, to discuss DUP concerns around the government's Brexit plan.

But the taoiseach warned that it was impossible to reopen any individual aspect of the withdrawal deal, describing it as the "only agreement on the table".

Ahead of their meeting, Mrs Foster underlined the precarious nature of Mrs May's position as she reaffirmed the DUP's implacable opposition to the backstop which, it says, impose a "border in the Irish Sea" between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

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It also noted that swathes of legislation would have to be amended by the Dail in a hurry to acknowledge that the United Kingdom is no longer inside Europe's single market and customs union.

If that happens she can not be challenged for at least another year.

The EU is due to hold a summit on December 13-14.

What is the Irish government's view?

The vote postponement marks what many lawmakers cast as the collapse of May's two-year attempt to forge a compromise under which the United Kingdom would exit the European Union while staying largely within its economic orbit.

Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament's Brexit representative, tweeted: "I can't follow any more".

While the two leaders will pose for a photographer on the steps of Government Buildings, it has been decided that they should not risk taking media questions together.

"I hope that once again, as the prime minister meets the taoiseach in Dublin, that we will see and hear flexibility and pragmatism from Leo Varadkar's government", he added.

"They are afraid to tell people how bad it's going to be if there's no deal".

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