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Europe briefing: 4 stories to know about today

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Europe briefing: 4 stories to know about today
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Reuters
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1. May gets mandate to return to Brussels for alternative backstop arrangements

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.

2. EU's chief Brexit negotiator says EU is united behind agreed deal

Despite May's mandate to return to Brussels after last night's vote in UK Parliament, the EU's response remained steadfast.

Speaking to reporters in Brussels Wednesday morning, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said the EU was committed to its already-agreed deal with May.

"The EU institutions remain united and we stand by the agreement we have negotiated with the UK - never against the UK," he said. | read more

3. Germany arrests three people on suspicion of planning violent attack

Germany's federal prosecutor confirmed on Wednesday morning that police had arrested three individuals on suspicion of planning "in late 2018 an Islamist attack."

According to a statement on the prosecutor's website, the group explored and experimented with different methods of attack.

One suspect researched bomb creation on the internet, before attempting to purchase a detonator from a contact in the UK. However, the delivery was thwarted by British police.

The suspects then explored firearm options, which they found to be too expensive.

"In addition, the defendants considered using a motor vehicle in their attack. Therefore [one suspect] started taking driving lessons at the latest in early 2019," the statement said.

4. Spain's King Felipe VI visits Iraq, marking the first visit from a Spanish monarch in 40 years

Span's King Felipe VI visited troops deployed in Iraq on Wednesday in the middle of his surprise trip to the war-torn nation. His trip marks the first time a Spanish monarch has visited in Iraq in four decades.

The king, who was accompanied by Spanish Defence Minister Margarita Robles, also met with Iraqi President Barham Salih during his short trip.

El Rey Felipe VI celebra su 51 cumpleaños visitando a las tropas españolas desplegadas en Irak. ¡¡MUCHAS FELICIDADES, MAJESTAD!! ?? ?: Casa de S.M. el Rey

Publiée par Ministerio de Defensa España sur Mercredi 30 janvier 2019

As it happened on Wednesday, January 30

This is how we covered key developments this morning.