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Theresa May to speak to every EU leader in bid to break Brexit deadlock

Embattled British leader calls last week's vote "disappointing", urges Tory MPs to unite

London

BRITISH Prime Minister Theresa May has vowed to speak to every European Union (EU) member state leader this week as she wrote to Conservative MPs to appeal for unity over Brexit.

In the letter to her fractious colleagues, excerpts of which were released by Downing Street on Saturday (Sunday morning, Singapore time), Mrs May urged the party to "move beyond what divides us".

The embattled British leader said ruling Tories need to sacrifice "personal preferences" for the "higher service of the national interest".

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The plea came after Mrs May suffered another parliamentary defeat over Brexit last week, suggesting a short-lived period of party unity over reforming her draft EU divorce deal may not survive.

Last Thursday night, MPs rejected a motion expressing support for Mrs May's efforts to seek changes to her under-fire agreement, after members of her own Conservative party abstained.

In her letter to lawmakers on Saturday, the prime minister called the vote "disappointing" but insisted she would keep seeking to secure changes to the so-called backstop arrangement in the deal.

Her office revealed she planned "to speak to the leader of every EU member state in the coming days".

"I do not underestimate how deeply or how sincerely colleagues hold the views which they do on this important issue," Mrs May told Tories, referring to Brexit.

"But I believe that a failure to make the compromises necessary... will let down the people who sent us to represent them," she warned. "Our party can do what it has done so often in the past: move beyond what divides us and come together behind what unites us."

Mrs May confirmed she would return to Brussels this week for further talks with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

Brexit secretary Steve Barclay will on Monday meet EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier to discuss proposals put forward by a new "working group" of British lawmakers exploring alternatives to the backstop, according to her office.

Meanwhile, attorney-general Geoffrey Cox will on Tuesday make a speech "setting out what changes would be required to eliminate the legal risk we could be trapped in backstop indefinitely", Downing Street said.

Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29, but its Parliament last month rejected a draft divorce deal Mrs May negotiated with the bloc, prompting fears the country could crash out without a deal next month. AFP