London/Brussels – Prime Minister Theresa May set off late Monday for Strasbourg for last-minute talks with EU leaders on her request for changes to Britain’s EU exit deal, her office said.
An EU spokesperson said May was scheduled to meet European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in the French city at 9 pm (2000 GMT), while British media said both sides would make statements after the talks.
Juncker and EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier were expected in Strasbourg for this week’s plenary session of the European Parliament.
May has promised to hold a second vote on the Brexit deal in the British parliament on Tuesday, just 17 days before Britain is scheduled to leave the EU.
She hopes to secure changes to the deal before the vote, junior Brexit minister Robin Walker told lawmakers in the Commons, parliament’s elected main house.
May is still "seeking legally binding changes which will address the concerns of this house," Walker said.
He confirmed that the government planned to make another statement on the Brexit negotiations late Monday and issue updated advice on the withdrawal agreement from its top legal adviser before Tuesday’s parliamentary session opens.
Walker was responding to an urgent question from Labour, the main opposition party, which accused May of "running down the clock" until Britain leaves the EU on March 29 and failing to secure any changes to her deal since December.
May appears set for another crushing defeat in parliament, after her deal was voted down in mid-January, unless she secures changes to the withdrawal agreement.
Following a meeting of the Irish cabinet to discuss Brexit, Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said his government still insists that Britain’s EU withdrawal agreement "can’t change."
But Ireland wants to help provide "clarity and reassurance" to May on the so-called backstop arrangement to guarantee an open Irish border, Coveney told reporters in Dublin.
Downing Street said earlier Monday that voting on the Brexit deal would go ahead as planned on Tuesday and, if May loses, on two more votes on Wednesday and Thursday on whether Britain should leave the EU without a deal, and whether it should extend the Brexit negotiations.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday said it was a positive sign that the European Commission had put forward several suggestions on how to give Britain "even more legal clarity."
The EU had made Britain "an important offer" when it put forward further assurances on the backstop, and Britain must now respond, Merkel added.
May has asked Brussels for concessions after lawmakers roundly rejected the deal in mid-January.
The main sticking point is the backstop, an insurance policy aimed at keeping open the border between Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland, in the case that no trade deal is struck in time to resolve the issue.
Eurosceptics in May’s Conservative party are concerned that Britain could remain locked into a close relationship with the EU, stymieing efforts to enter into separate trade deals, without the possibility of unilaterally exiting the backstop.
## Note to editors – releads with May travelling to Strasbourg; meeting with Juncker confirmed – dpa photos
## Internet links – [FT report (paywall)](http://dpaq.de/lgekq) – [The Times report (paywall)](http://dpaq.de/FYvhl) – [Video of EU spokesman](http://dpaq.de/s6Hk6)
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## Editorial contacts – Reporting by: Helen Maguire and Verena Schmitt-Roschmann in Brussels, Bill Smith in London and Ella Joyner in Berlin – Editing by: Miranda Lee Murray, +49 30 2852 31472,
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