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U.K. Parliament votes to re-open Brexit talks despite EU refusal

A Pro-Brexit protestor outside of Parliament. Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May says she'll demand changes to the Brexit deal she reached with the EU, but the EU has long said it's unwilling to renegotiate — and a series of votes in Parliament today didn't make the picture any clearer.

The bottom line: May says the votes indicate there's a majority out there for a revised deal. That's an optimistic interpretation. Two months ahead of the date the U.K. is set to leave the EU, it's unclear what's going to happen.

The latest: Parliament voted to support May's effort to find “alternative arrangements” with the EU on the controversial "Irish backstop."

  • The backstop would prevent a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K. Hard-line Brexiteers hate the backstop because it would keep the U.K. tied to EU trading rules for as long as it remains in place.
  • European Commission President Donald Tusk immediately said "the withdrawal agreement is not open for re-negotiation." It's unclear whether May can even get the EU to the table, let alone get the kind of changes she needs for a parliamentary majority.

Between the lines: Boris Johnson brushed off Tusk's statement, saying "it takes two to tango." That, it must be said, appeared to be Tusk's point.

What's next: Parliament also voted to express its opposition to "no deal," but it rejected a plan to push the official exit date beyond March 29. The conventional wisdom has long been that both sides have every incentive to avoid "no deal," yet it's the default option absent a breakthrough.