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UPDATE 1-UK PM May asked her lawmakers to support call for alternative to N. Irish backstop

Updated: 29-01-2019 00:55 IST
UPDATE 1-UK PM May asked her lawmakers to support call for alternative to N. Irish backstop

British Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday asked her lawmakers to support a proposal which calls for the Northern Irish backstop in her Brexit deal with Brussels to be replaced with alternative arrangements.

Conservative Party Chairman Brandon Lewis confirmed the move after May addressed her lawmakers at a private meeting in parliament at which she sought to heal divisions and present a united front to Brussels over Brexit. Lawmakers will on Tuesday debate and vote on May's next steps, after the overwhelming rejection of her Brexit plan earlier this month, and have been proposing amendments seeking to shape the future direction of Brexit.

Many pro-Brexit lawmakers oppose the so-called "backstop" , an insurance policy aimed at preventing a hard border in Ireland, which would require EU rules to apply in British-ruled Northern Ireland if no other solutions can be agreed. Lewis said May told a meeting of her Conservative lawmakers on Monday that they should vote in favour of an amendment, proposed by senior Conservative lawmaker Graham Brady, which calls for the backstop to be replaced with "alternative arrangements".

"It allows the PM to give a very clear message about what the parliament wants and where the party is," Lewis said. The European Union has ruled out renegotiating the principle behind the backstop. Its deputy chief negotiator Sabine Weyand said today that the bloc was "open to alternative arrangements" on the Irish border but that the problem with Brady's proposal was that it did not spell out what they were.

Strong support for the amendment - if it is put to a vote on Tuesday - will allow May to demonstrate to the European Union that changes to the backstop could be enough to allow her to get parliamentary approval for a deal. May's address drew cheers of support and banging of desks audible to reporters outside the room. But, moments before she spoke the head of an influential eurosceptic Conservative faction said his group would not back the amendment. (Reporting by Kylie MacLellan and William James, editing by James Davey)