In Brussels, EU gives May glimpse of Brexit hope

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BRUSSELS: British Prime Minister Theresa May came away from a day in an increasingly impatient Brussels yesterday with a pledge of renewed talks that held out some hope for a new Brexit deal, if no sign of compromise yet.

Senior EU officials urged her to grasp an olive branch from Labour opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn that echoed EU proposals for a permanent EU-UK customs union as a way to end deadlock on the Irish border “backstop”. But EU sources said May had given little sign of how she planned to secure parliamentary support.

Dispatched by parliament to revise an accord she struck with the EU that European leaders refuse to reopen, May flew into a storm provoked by the EU’s Donald Tusk, who wished a “special place in hell” on those who had promoted Brexit with no clear plan for how to achieve it. Despite frustration among Europe’s governments at May’s inability to win support at home for the deal she agreed in November, EU Council President Tusk and Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker stressed a willingness to be flexible.

Juncker and May issued a joint statement after what they called a “robust” discussion. It set out her demand for a legally binding change to the “backstop” plan to avoid customs checks on the Irish border, and his insistence that the other 27 EU member states would not reopen that agreement. —Agencies

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