She promised to update Parliament at the end of the month but there is growing concern the talks will drag on into March and that the last chance to strike a deal will be at a two-day summit of European Union leaders starting on March 21, just eight days before the United Kingdom is slated to leave the bloc. "We now all need to hold our nerve to get the changes this House requires and deliver Brexit on time".
British Prime Minister Theresa May (L) leaves 10 Downing Street to make a statement to the House of Commons to update on Brexit talks in London, Britain, Feb. 12, 2019.
On January 15, MPs voted it down by 432 votes to 202 in an historic defeat for the prime minister, brought about by opposition to the backstop from within May's own party.
The EU is reluctant to make any gestures towards the United Kingdom on the backstop, not only because of maintaining peace in Northern Ireland and preventing a backdoor into the EU's single market, but also because the bloc is not convinced that any EU concession would be enough for May get a majority she needs.
A working group comprised of both pro and anti-Brexit Conservative MPs has been discussing possible alternatives.
Parliament is to hold a debate on Brexit on February 14, but with just 45 days until Britain leaves the bloc it is not expected to change the course of the exit process, and no date has been set for another vote to approve or reject May's deal.
Brexiteer MPs in her Conservative Party are particularly unhappy with the so-called backstop provision meant to keep the border with Ireland free-flowing.
May also hinted that a provision in the UK's Constitutional Reform and Governance Act, which dictates that worldwide treaties must sit for 21 days of parliamentary sittings before they can be ratified, would be waived to give her government more time to broker an acceptable deal with the EU. "It's possibly not surprising that May is not willing to go that far".
News reported that Mr Robbins, who is a key figure in the negotiations with the European Union, indicated that if MPs did not vote for a deal then the delay to Brexit would be "a long one".
The EU's Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said on Monday the bloc would agree to tweak the political declaration on post-Brexit EU-UK ties that forms part of the exit package, to reflect a plan for a closer future relationship that could remove the need for the backstop.
"Talks are now at a crucial stage and we must all hold our nerve", May said, adding she believes Britain can reach a deal that will have the support of Parliament, and also honor the result of the 2016 referendum when British votes backed leaving the EU.
Business leaders have argued that a no-deal Brexit would spell disaster for the UK's economy.
An ERG MP said many of its members were "not minded to support such a clumsily worded motion" that effectively ruled out a no-deal Brexit. "We shouldn't be under any illusions - I'm not going to put a point estimate on it - but a no-deal, no-transition Brexit would be an economic shock for this economy".
He was said to have indicated that if lawmakers, who overwhelmingly rejected the deal struck between London and Brussels, did not vote for a rehashed withdrawal agreement, then the delay to Brexit would be "a long one".