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The EU sends letter to Theresa May in attempt to prevent Brexit deal defeat

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The EU has sent an attempted letter of reassurance to the prime minister Theresa May in a last ditch attempt to save their Brexit deal with the UK.

The House of Commons is due to vote overwhelmingly against the deal, which was agreed with the EU in November, on Tuesday in what some forecasts suggest could be the biggest defeat for any UK government on record.

Opposition to the deal centres on the controversial Northern Ireland backstop agreement, which would keep Britain tied to EU custom and trade rules indefinitely if no deal is struck on Britain’s future relationship with the EU by the end of the Brexit transition period.

The letter from the European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, seeks to reassure the UK that any backstop would be “temporary” and apply only “as long as strictly necessary.”

They state that it would “only apply temporarily, unless and until it is superseded by a subsequent agreement that ensures that a hard border is avoided, and that the European Union, in such a case, would use its best endeavours to negotiate and conclude expeditiously a subsequent agreement that would replace the backstop, and would expect the same of the United Kingdom, so that the backstop would only be in place for as long as strictly necessary.”

However, it stops well short of the kind of legally binding assurance that the prime minister had originally sought when she postponed the planned Commons vote on her deal in December.

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