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Updated (2): May plans return to EU to reopen Brexit deal

Updated (2): May plans return to EU to reopen Brexit deal

After British MPs overwhelmingly rejected Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal earlier this month, they will vote again on Tuesday (today) on what they want her to do next as the March 29 departure deadline looms.

The amendment calls for the backstop to be replaced with unspecified "alternative arrangements" to avoid the reintroduction of border checks in Ireland. The backstop would keep the U.K.in a customs union with the EU in order to remove the need for checks along the border between the U.K.'s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland after Britain leaves the bloc. At the centre of many pro-Brexit lawmakers' concerns is the Irish "backstop", an insurance policy aimed at preventing a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland.

The chances of the Commons derailing her plans were also heightened when Labour confirmed it will back a cross-party amendment to push Brexit day back from March 29 to the end of this year and put Parliament in the driving seat on the way forward.

Tory grandee Sir Graham said he hoped House of Commons backing would give Mrs May "enormous firepower" when she returns to Brussels to seek concessions on her Brexit deal.

DUP leader Arlene Foster - whose 10 MPs prop up the minority Conservative administration in the Commons - said it provided a "feasible" alternative to the backstop.

But amid political gridlock in London and with Brexit day just two months away, the European Union shows few, if any, signs of renegotiating the divorce deal it struck with May late past year.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the chair of the backbench European Research Group, and the former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, had both demanded a clear statement from May that she was willing to reopen the fraught issue of the backstop.

The committee's decision - adopted unanimously with 53 votes in favour - must be endorsed by the full parliament next month, which is likely as other European Union institutions have backed a move to relaxed visa requirements for Britain after Brexit, provided London reciprocates.

Britain's bickering parliament has splintered into rival factions with their own remedies for Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal.

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"The backstop is part of the withdrawal agreement, and the withdrawal agreement is not open for renegotiation".

MPs will vote on amendments to her approach selected by the powerful Speaker of the Commons John Bercow; 19 had been submitted by Monday, and he may choose four.

One would give parliament the right to tell the government to leave the hated border arrangement should talks on a new EU-UK trade deal break down.

"This is not a Brussels day, this is a London day", said European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas.

Another would let lawmakers vote on a set of alternate Brexit proposals to see which - if any - could muster majority support. MPs defeated Labour's Brexit amendment by 327 votes to 296, majority 31. She said any such amendment would tie "one hand behind my back" when it comes to her negotiating power with Brussels.

And Ireland's Europe minister Helen McEntee called for "realism" from London as "there can be no change to the backstop".

May's plan was rejected in dramatic fashion by parliament on January 15 largely due to opposition to the backstop.

Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who resigned a year ago in opposition to the backstop and May's agreement, described the amendment's passage as "a victory for the prime minister, but also it's a victory for the U.K." as it allows May to return to Brussels stronger to negotiate changes.