Government going round in circles over Brexit, says Northern Ireland Chamber chair

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Known as the "Irish backstop", Juncker said it must remain in the agreement "as an insurance against the return of a hard border" or Ireland could, again, "slip back into darker times of the past" - a reference to the bloody 30-year-old conflict between Republican Catholics and Protestant Unionists that came to an end in 1998.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker stuck to the same line, adding that Brussels still did not know what Britain wanted and that the chances of a "no-deal" exit had increased. "Addressing to a tough renegotiation ahead with the European Union commission, UK PM May's spokesman said, "(May) was clear that this wasn't going to be an easy process and that there would be reluctance on the European Union side to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement.

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

Parliament had comprehensively flattened a deal which had been two and a half years in the making, and - with only three months to go until Brexit day - it felt as though no deal (the legal default) was unavoidable. So far, the government has said only that parliament would be able to vote on whether such improvements should be matched.

"The time has come for words to be matched by deeds", she said on Tuesday. Or could Britain crash out of the block with no deal?

However, he said Attorney General Geoffrey Cox and cabinet office minister David Lidington would join Brexit minister Stephen Barclay in the team, which would also "tap-in to" the expertise of trade negotiator Crawford Falconer.

Concrete barriers are installed at the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. McEntee politely countered that roughly nine out of ten Irish voters are happy with the European Union, and just as politely pointed out that Ireland would prefer to set its own course rather than have London do it for them. As there has been no definitive agreement on exactly how United Kingdom will trade with RoI (and de facto with the EU), there is a growing fear that a frictionless land border will still not be settled after the implementation period, December 2020.

"I suspect we will still be in a position where the antidote to the government's impasse on the 14th will be a more structured period of time for the Commons to make decisions".

Coveney said Tuesday's vote in the House of Commons, which saw MPs narrowly vote to back an amendment that calls for the Northern Ireland backstop to be replaced by unspecified alternative arrangements, signalled "a turning point" in Theresa May's attitude to the backstop. In a telephone call on Wednesday evening, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar told May that it was necessary to have a backstop that was "legally robust and workable in practice".

"And when I say I'm going to be focused over the next few weeks until the meaningful vote in parliament at getting that vote through, yes I will".

Michel Barnier told France's RTL radio that the two-year divorce negotiations had looked for an alternative to the "Irish backstop", created to ensure that the border between European Union member Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland, long a scene of sectarian violence, remains free of border posts.

It is not clear, however, if this amendment will be fully backed by the Labour leadership or command the support of the Commons.

The European Commission has adopted a range of contingency plans to protect the rights and status of students participating in the Erasmus+ exchange programme after Brexit.