Talks on last-minute Brexit deal ahead of Tuesday’s vote

LONDON: Talks on finalising an agreement for Britain to leave the European Union will continue over the weekend, the chairman of Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservatives said on Saturday. Brandon Lewis said May’s government would not accept any deal that “compromises the unity of the United Kingdom,” after reports that the EU had offered a possible solution that would treat Northern Ireland differently from Britain. Lewis urged lawmakers to back the deal in a crucial vote on Tuesday or face the possibility of Britain crashing out of the EU without a deal, or even not leaving at all.

“Parliamentarians have a really, really vital decision to make. The EU and the EU Commission do as well,” Lewis told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “We have this vote on Tuesday. We need to win that vote.” “If we don’t do that on Tuesday then nobody quite knows where we will end up — whether we end up with a hard Brexit with no deal… but there is also a risk with parliament that we end up with no Brexit at all.” After British lawmakers overwhelmingly rejected her Brexit deal in mid-January, May promised to seek changes to the so-called “backstop” protocol to guarantee an open border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland after Brexit.

If the agreement is again rejected, May will allow a vote on Wednesday on whether the country should leave the bloc on March 29 without a deal. Should that also be rejected, lawmakers will on Thursday vote on whether Brexit should be postponed. European Parliament President Antonio Tajani has said Britain can only delay Brexit until the start of July.