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UK tells EU: Give ground or face chaos

Staff Writer |
UK Prime Minister Theresa May was planning to turn up the pressure on the European Union on Friday to break an impasse in Brexit negotiations with a speech saying the bloc would be damaged too if Britain left without a deal.

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British lawmakers vote on the deal for a second time on Tuesday, less than three weeks before Britain is scheduled to leave the EU; so far there is little sign of May getting the concessions that she says would reverse her previous defeat.

May wants legally binding assurances from the EU that Britain will not be trapped permanently in the backstop, which involves keeping Britain in a customs union with the bloc.

Many business leaders are alarmed at the prospect of leaving the bloc’s single market, which underpins many of their operations, with no transition arrangements to soften the shock of Britain’s biggest political and economic change in more than 40 years.

A survey of recruiters showed on Friday that employers held off from hiring permanent staff in February, adding to signs of growing nerves in Britain’s otherwise strong labour market.

May was due to give a speech later in Grimsby, a heavily ‘leave’-supporting area, saying that the EU must now give ground on the backstop to help push through the deal, which was defeated in parliament in January by a record margin.

“Just as MPs will face a big choice next week, the EU has to make a choice, too. We are both participants in this process. It is in the European interest for the UK to leave with a deal,” May was due to say, according to pre-released extracts.

“We are working with them, but the decisions that the European Union makes over the next few days will have a big impact on the outcome of the vote.”

May has said that if her plan is defeated on Tuesday, lawmakers will be able to vote on Wednesday and Thursday on whether they want to leave the bloc without a deal, or ask for a short delay to Brexit.

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