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EU won't re-open Brexit deal, hopes May will have new proposals: Tusk

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"I've been wondering what that special place in hell looks like, for those who promoted Brexit, without even a sketch of a plan how to carry it out safely," says Mr Tusk.

Brussels

EUROPEAN Council President Donald Tusk said on Wednesday he hoped British Prime Minister Theresa May would come to Brussels on Thursday with "realistic suggestions" on how to break the Brexit impasse as the European Union (EU) would not re-open the Brexit deal.

Mr Tusk, speaking at a joint news conference with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar after their talks in Brussels, reiterated the EU's stance that the Irish border backstop in the withdrawal agreement had to stay.

"I've been wondering what that special place in hell looks like, for those who promoted Brexit, without even a sketch of a plan how to carry it out safely," Mr Tusk said.

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Mr Varadkar said the Brexit deal, which has since been rejected by the UK Parliament, was "the best possible". He said Britain's recent political instability was yet another proof of why the backstop was needed.

The statements from the two leaders come amid reports that Mrs May tried to break the deadlock over Brexit on Wednesday by thrashing out alternative proposals for the Irish border with political parties in Northern Ireland.

At meetings in Belfast, Mrs May tried to tackle the biggest obstacle to getting a deal ratified by the British Parliament - an insurance policy covering the possible future arrangements for the border between EU-member Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland.

"We will find a way to deliver Brexit that honours our commitments to Northern Ireland," the UK prime minister said on Tuesday. She added she would seek an alternative arrangement which avoids the need for a hard border or legally binding changes to the border backstop to introduce a time limit or create an exit mechanism.

Mrs May will also be given more time by her Conservative Party to negotiate Brexit with the EU if she can convince Brussels to talk, a lawmaker involved in discussions with the government said on Wednesday.

A group of Conservative lawmakers from both wings of Mrs May's deeply divided party bypassed her last week to come up with a compromise plan that called on the prime minister to return to Brussels and reopen the most contentious element of the exit agreement - the Northern Irish backstop.

Speaking to journalists on Wednesday, the lawmakers behind the plan - dubbed the Malthouse Compromise after its broker, Kit Malthouse - said their proposal was being taken seriously, describing intensive talks with government to flesh it out as Mrs May prepares for meetings in Brussels on Thursday. One of the group said if Mrs May could demonstrate that the EU was willing to renegotiate, she would buy herself some more time and avoid a potential flashpoint in Parliament next week when she returns to report her progress.

The United Kingdom is on course to leave the EU on March 29 without a deal unless Mrs May can convince the bloc to reopen the divorce deal she agreed in November and then sell it to sceptical British lawmakers.

As companies and governments across Europe step up preparations for the turmoil of a no-deal exit, diplomats and officials said the UK now faces three main options: a no-deal exit, a last-minute deal or a delay to Brexit.

Brexit has snagged on the 500-kilometre frontier because there is disagreement on how to monitor trade without physical checks on the border, which was marked by military checkpoints before a 1998 peace deal ended three decades of sectarian conflict. As a way to prevent a hard border, Brussels and London agreed a so-called backstop - basically a promise that unless the sides come up with a better idea then the UK would remain bound by EU market and customs rules so that goods would not have to be checked. REUTERS