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May Secures Assurances Over Back Stop

The future of Britain’s exit from the European Union hung in the balance today as lawmakers are prepared to vote on a divorce deal after Prime Minister Theresa May won last-minute assurances from the European Union.

Scrambling to plot an orderly path out of the Brexit maze just days before the United Kingdom is due to leave. May rushed to Strasbourg last night to agree ‘legally binding’ assurances with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

British lawmakers, who on Jan. 15 voted 432-202 against her deal, were this morning studying the assurances with lawyers. The government’s top lawyer, Geoffrey Cox, is due to give his opinion before the vote due around 1900 GMT.

May says we have assured legal changes. She said the assurances created an arbitration channel for any disputes on the backstop, “entrenches in legally-binding form” existing commitments that it will be temporary and binds the UK and EU to starting work on replacing the backstop with other arrangements by December 2020.

May announced three documents – a joint instrument, a joint statement and a unilateral declaration – which she said were aimed at addressing the Irish backstop, the most contentious part of the divorce deal she agreed with the EU in November.

After two-and-a-half years of haggling since the 2016 Brexit referendum, Juncker cautioned this was the last chance for Britain. “It is this deal or Brexit might not happen at all,” he said.

Sterling rose 1.5 percent against the dollar and to a near two-year high against the euro.

If lawmakers vote down May’s deal, she has promised a vote on Wednesday on whether to leave without a deal and, if they reject that, then a vote on whether to ask for a limited delay to Brexit.

The United Kingdom’s labyrinthine crisis over EU membership is approaching its finale with an array of possible outcomes, including a delay, a last-minute deal, a no-deal Brexit, a snap election or even another referendum.

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