Foreign Secretary: Brexit may have to be delayed

UK Parliament rips up Brexit deal, sends May back to talks

While Mr Coveney is in America to discuss general Irish-American relations as well as developments in the Middle East peace process, Department of Foreign Affairs sources say there is "palpable concern" in the US Congress about unfolding developments with Brexit, including any possibility of a new hard border on the island of Ireland.

Members of Parliament narrowly voted through two significant amendments to the Brexit plan: one says there should be no "no deal" Brexit, while the other demands the removal of the contentious "Irish backstop" from the withdrawal agreement struck between Prime Minister Theresa May and her European counterparts.

The main disagreement over the border issue has been over an EU-suggested backstop - keeping Northern Ireland in the EU single market and customs union after Brexit until a solution is found - because it would create a sort of a border within the U.K.in the Irish Sea.

The European presidency is set to begin negotiations with the European Parliament on measures to secure maritime connections between Ireland and other EU Member States in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Key figures in Brussels roundly rejected the PM's suggestion, as Donald Tusk insisted that the Withdrawal Agreement struck last November was not open for renegotiation. "But we still don't know what the United Kingdom does want".

He was referring to another motion passed by Britain's Parliament on Tuesday that rejected a no-deal Brexit.

"But the government's approach to no deal preparations - being unwilling to talk publicly about plans and developing an adversarial relationship with Parliament - has caused further problems", the report said.

She added it was "quite disgraceful" to "exploit genuine fears" in Ireland that there could be a return to armed border posts along the politically sensitive frontier if a deal is not reached.

May indicated that she understood this but gave no indication of what she might ask for nor of the timeline for her next steps, although she indicated that meetings in Brussels would be useful at some stage, the officials said.

Irish police seized a substantial quantity of firearms and a suspected explosive device near the border with Northern Ireland on Friday as part of an investigation into the activities of militant Irish nationalist groups there.

The EU wouldn't risk offering concessions when it seemed unlikely that Britain would accept them.

But surely a no-deal Brexit is as damaging for some European Union member states as it would be the UK?

There was growing anxiety among pro-People's Vote Labour MPs this week that their leader Jeremy Corbyn is close to throwing his support behind a revised version of May's deal with the EU.

May's spokesman said she backed an amendment that called for the removal of a controversial "backstop" arrangement in her deal to keep open the border with Ireland after Brexit, in favor of "alternative arrangements to avoid a hard border".

He had refused to meet Mrs May unless she agreed to rule out a no-deal Brexit, but changed his mind after MPs voted against the idea of leaving the European Union on 29 March without a deal on Tuesday evening.

And Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar told May by phone that "the latest developments had reinforced the need for a backstop which is legally robust and workable in practice", an Irish government spokesman said.

However, the EU reiterated its position on Monday that there would be "no negotiation" on the terms of Mrs May's deal, despite the prime minister being due to speak to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker this week. At this point, Barnier took the opportunity to take aim at both of May's former Brexit secretaries, Dominic Raab and David Davis, whom he said were trying to lay the blame for the current situation on Brussels.

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