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May gets mandate to return to Brussels for alternative backstop arrangements

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UK PM Theresa May in the House of Commons January 29, 2019
UK PM Theresa May in the House of Commons January 29, 2019   -   Copyright  UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor
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After a series of defeats, finally a win for Theresa May, of sorts.

The amendment backed by her government has passed Parliament, giving her a mandate to head back to Brussels.

She'll be asking the EU for changes to the Irish backstop in the withdrawal agreement she's already negotiated - the Irish backstop is the insurance policy that temporarily keeps Northern Ireland, and to a lesser extent the rest of the UK, in alignment with EU customs arrangements, in order to ensure there's no hard border in Ireland.

But according to a host of players on the EU negotiating team, she'll be arriving to a chorus of the word, "no."

Brexit Coordinator for the European Parliament Guy Verhofstadt reiterated that sense this morning when he discussed the EU position on the Irish backstop.

"I don't think there is room to do that, for the reason that the backstop is absolutely needed and the backstop is in the withdrawal, but there is a possibility to discuss the future relationship"

EU Chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier was out repeating the party line as well.

"The only point I want to make is to confirm that the EU institutions remain united and we stand by the agreement we have negotiated with the UK, never against the UK," he said in Brussels this morning.

By contrast, Independent MEP Stephen Woolfe believes that yesterday's vote strengthened May's hand for renegotiations with Europe.

Watch Woolfe on GME in the above player.