March 14, 2019 / 12:49 PM / 11 days ago

UPDATE 1-UK's Fox: wants to give assurances on backstop but only one Brexit deal on table

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LONDON, March 14 (Reuters) - The British government wants to be able to give more assurances over the so-called Irish backstop but Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal is the only one on the table, trade minister Liam Fox said on Thursday.

The government’s top lawyer said this week a revised divorce deal with the EU had not given Britain a legal way of exiting the backstop arrangement unilaterally, leading to May’s Brexit deal being defeated by a large margin for a second time.

May’s spokesman said she would bring back her Brexit deal for another vote in parliament if the government judges the circumstances are right.

Asked during a news conference whether May could win any further changes to the deal or whether parliament could be asked to vote again on the same agreement, Fox said: “Obviously we want to continue to be able to give assurances on the legal elements around the backstop.”

“But ultimately the choices are limited ... there is only one deal on the table.”

British lawmakers are due to vote later on Thursday about whether to seek a delay to Britain’s scheduled March 29 EU exit date. The government has set out the option to seek a short delay, to the end of June, if a Brexit deal is agreed by March 20, or a longer delay if no deal can be agreed in time.

European Council President Donald Tusk said that EU leaders would consider pressing Britain to delay Brexit by at least a year to find a way through its domestic deadlock.

“I think a long-term extension would be a signal to the British public that there were those in parliament who are trying to steal Brexit from them and I think that would be a huge breach of trust,” Fox said. (Reporting by Kylie MacLellan, Writing by Andrew MacAskill, Editing by Stephen Addison)

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