British Prime Minister Theresa May has left London for talks with European Union leaders aimed at winning approval to amend her Brexit deal.
May met Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in The Hague early on Tuesday before heading to the German capital, Berlin, for talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel.
She will later travel to Brussels, the administrative heart of the EU, where she will hold discussions with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk.
Tusk said the other 27 EU leaders would discuss Brexit at a special meeting on Thursday, at the beginning of a pre-planned summit in Brussels which May will herself attend.
May’s whistle-stop tour comes a day after she pulled a parliamentary vote on her widely criticised EU withdrawal plan, acknowledging it would have been rejected by the UK’s lower chamber House of Commons.
The move sent the pound plunging against the dollar and the euro as fears of a no-deal Brexit spooked markets.
Irish border issue
Amid accusations from the main opposition Labour Party that May had “lost control of events” and calls from her own ruling Conservative Party members to “govern or quit”, the prime minister pledged to go back to European leaders and seek changes to her deal in order appease MPs.
She said Britain needed “further assurances” to get the backing of the Commons, which is due to have a so-called meaningful vote on the withdrawal agreement sometime before January 22.
At the heart of the contention is the “backstop” proposal, a safety net provision which guarantees no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in the event post-Brexit trade negotiations between the UK and the EU prove unsuccessful.
The clause proposes that the whole of the UK, including Northern Ireland, will remain in a customs union with the EU “unless and until” the bloc agrees there is no prospect of a return to a hard border.
But critics in the UK parliament argue that the measure could tie Britain into the EU’s orbit indefinitely.