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May heads to Strasbourg in late bid for Brexit breakthrough

AFP  |  London 

set off for late Monday for talks with in a last-ditch attempt to salvage their deal, on the eve of a crucial vote in the

Her visit comes after British officials worked through the weekend to secure concessions from the they hope will persuade MPs to back the text.

The overwhelmingly defeated the deal in January and without significant changes, is expected to do so again in a vote on Tuesday evening.

"The has just departed for for talks with (chief) Jean-Claude Juncker," her said.

The EU has rejected many of May's demands, which relate to the controversial backstop plan for the Irish border, but German said it had made an offer at the weekend.

Defeat could see Britain sever ties with its closest trading partner on March 29 with no new arrangements, causing huge disruption on both sides of the Channel.

It would also raise the possibility of postponing Brexit, after May promised to allow MPs a vote later this week on whether to accept a "no deal" scenario or request a short delay from the EU.

Hopes for a breakthrough in the talks looked slim earlier Monday, after the EU's negotiator said it was up to May and British MPs to find a compromise.

"We held talks over the weekend and the negotiations now are between the in and the parliament in London," he told AFP in

But Irish then suggested May could visit Strasbourg, where the is holding its plenary session this week, to "finalise an agreement, if that's possible".

In Berlin, Merkel said the EU had offered "a large number of proposals at the weekend" to provide "much more legal clarity" over the Irish backstop.

"We've made an important offer again towards Great Britain and now of course it's up to Great Britain to react to these offers," Merkel said in The late trip caused concern among MPs in London, who complained they may not have enough time to scrutinise any deal May agrees before being asked to vote on Tuesday.

"Is this incompetence or is this just contempt for parliament?" said

An EU confirmed the talks would take place around 9:00pm (2000 GMT), and an EU source said Barnier would probably also attend.

Secretary is expected to update the Commons in after that.

May's deal was struck during more than a year of tough negotiations, and covers Britain's financial settlement, expatriate rights, the Irish border and plans for a transition period.

But MPs rejected it in January by 432 votes to 202, with many of May's rebelling against her.

The Commons later sent her back to renegotiate the backstop, an arrangement intended to keep open the border between British and EU member

This 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.

Many MPs fear it is a "trap" to keep them tied to EU rules, but has rejected calls for a time limit or unilateral exit clause. "It is harder to leave the backstop than it is to leave the EU," said.

May has promised Britain will leave the EU whatever happens on March 29, but many MPs fear that a "no deal" exit would wreak economic havoc.

In the face of a cabinet revolt, she promised that if her deal is defeated again then MPs will vote on "no deal" on Wednesday and then on Thursday, on delaying

Any postponement would have to be approved by the leaders of the other 27 nations, who are next meeting at a summit on March 21-22 -- a week before Brexit.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, March 12 2019. 01:40 IST