The Latest: May doesn’t answer reports of office challenge

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The Latest on the Brexit negotiations (all times local):

9:40 p.m.

British Prime Minster Theresa May is refusing to comment on renewed speculation that Conservative Party rivals are about to trigger a leadership challenge.

Some pro-Brexit Conservatives say May’s opponents have reached the threshold of letters from 48 Conservative lawmakers needed to obtain a no-confidence vote. If May lost, she would be replaced.

The claim has been made prematurely before, but anger with May has mounted over her handling of Brexit.

The speculation came as May visited European capitals on Tuesday seeking changes to a proposed divorce deal with the European Union so she can get it through Parliament.

Asked if she had been told whether the threshold had been reached, May said: “No, I have been here in Europe dealing with the issue I have promised Parliament I would be dealing with.”


7:15 p.m.

British Prime Minister Theresa May says she and other EU leaders have a “shared determination” to find a way to assuage U.K. lawmakers’ concerns about the Brexit agreement.

May spent Tuesday traveling to The Hague, Berlin and Brussels after canceling a planned parliamentary vote on the EU divorce deal that she looked certain to lose.

Speaking after meeting European Council President Donald Tusk in Brussels, May said that “there is a shared determination to deal with this issue and address this problem.”

The problem centers on an insurance policy known as the backstop, designed to guarantee an open Irish border. Many U.K. lawmakers want to scrap it, but the EU insists it can’t be altered.

May didn’t say what the solution might be, noting that “we are just at the start of the negotiations and the start of the discussions.”


7 p.m.

Protesters determined to halt the Brexit process have gathered outside Britain’s Parliament while legislators debated inside.

Many in the crowd Tuesday criticized British Prime Minister Theresa May’s decision to cancel what had been a scheduled vote on her Brexit deal with the European Union.

Academic Fiona Cooper said May’s decision “was a very cowardly thing to do” and reflected the lack of backing for her Brexit plan.

“The fact that it isn’t supported tells you how wrong it is,” Cooper said. “We need a peoples’ vote now.”

Others joined her in calling for a second referendum now that the difficulties and economic toll of Brexit have become clear.

May has repeatedly refused calls for another vote, saying the results of the June, 2016 referendum must be respected.


6 p.m.

British Prime Minister Theresa May plans to travel to Dublin Wednesday to continue her whirlwind tour to rescue her Brexit deal.

Downing Street said May will meet with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar Wednesday afternoon following a Cabinet session in London.

May is in Brussels meeting with European Union leaders to seek changes to the Brexit deal she struck with Brussels in hopes of making it more palatable to Britain’s Parliament. In particular, she is seeking new negotiations on the issue of avoiding a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, a key sticking point.

May plans to return to Brussels for a two-day European Council summit meeting there on Thursday and Friday.


5:40 p.m.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has arrived at European Union headquarters for talks with Council President Donald Tusk, as part of a bid to win backing from EU leaders so she can sell her Brexit deal to the U.K. Parliament.

May, who’s on the third stop of a whirlwind diplomatic tour that already saw her in the Netherlands and Germany, desperately needs political help to sway her domestic audience. She postponed a key Parliament vote on the Brexit deal at the last minute Monday, admitting she would almost certainly be voted down.

The EU again stressed on Tuesday that it will not renegotiate the withdrawal agreement that will see Britain exit the EU on March 29. But it might agree on some added political language supporting May’s case.


1:20 p.m.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel for talks aimed at salvaging Britain’s divorce deal with the European Union.

Merkel greeted May with a handshake in wet, gray weather at the chancellery in Berlin Tuesday as the British leader made her second stop on a tour of European capitals aimed at securing “assurances” on the agreement to aid its passage through Britain’s parliament.

Merkel and May made no comment as they went into their meeting, and no statements or news conference were planned afterward. May, who started her tour in The Hague earlier Tuesday, was due in Brussels later in the day.

May postponed a Parliament vote on the Brexit deal at the last minute Monday, acknowledging she faced almost certain defeat. German officials, like their counterparts in other EU countries, say there will be no renegotiation of the hard-won deal.


12:50 p.m.

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman says the government intends to hold a postponed vote in Parliament on her Brexit deal by Jan. 21.

James Slack says the government will bring the divorce deal back to lawmakers once May has obtained “reassurances” from the European Union about a provision on common customs rules that had drawn widespread resistance from parliamentarians.

He said that would be before Jan. 21, previously seen as a deadline for the government to inform Parliament of its Brexit plan.

May delayed the vote, planned for Tuesday, at the last minute, acknowledging the deal would be rejected “by a significant margin” in Parliament. She is meeting EU leaders to seek new wording on the main sticking point, the so-called “backstop,” that could reassure Parliament.

The “backstop” is designed as an insurance policy to ensure an open border between the U.K.'s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland. But many lawmakers worry that Britain might be stuck in it indefinitely.


10:45 a.m.

A British Brexit minister says that Prime Minister Theresa May is seeking European Union guarantees that the U.K. will not become a prisoner of parts of the agreement.

British lawmakers fear that Britain will be bound by the so-called backstop, a safeguard meant to ensure that goods flow freely between the U.K.'s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland after Brexit.

Martin Callanan, Minister of State at the Department for Exiting the EU, told reporters Tuesday that May wants assurance “that the U.K. cannot be trapped permanently in the backstop.”

Callanan says “it is very important that these have to be additional legally binding reassurances.”

While EU leaders say the deal cannot be renegotiated, Callanan insisted that “it is a negotiation. It is always going to be a difficult and complex negotiation.”


10 a.m.

A senior German official says British Prime Minister Theresa May won’t get any pledge of new negotiations on the Brexit deal when she visits Chancellor Angela Merkel. And he is stressing that the chief negotiators are in Brussels, not Berlin.

May is visiting several European countries to seek “assurances” on the divorce agreement with the European Union to aid its passage through Britain’s parliament.

Asked as he arrived at a meeting in Brussels what May can expect from Merkel on Tuesday, Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Roth replied: “I hope they will wish each other Merry Christmas, strength and all the best for the new year. It’s good to speak to each other, but there will certainly be no promises of any kind that we will reopen matters now and renegotiate.”


9:50 a.m.

Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen says European Union countries might be willing to clarify parts of their divorce deal with Britain but would not be prepared to make wholesale changes.

Embattled British Prime Minister Theresa May is visiting European capitals to lobby for changes to the Brexit deal after she canceled a vote in the U.K. Parliament over concerns her plan would be rejected.

Samuelsen told reporters in Brussels Tuesday that “it is always a political option to clarify if that is needed, what is meant, what kind of underlining is needed.”

But he stressed that “it’s not a question, I guess, of renegotiating everything.”

He declined to comment on whether the EU would be prepared to draft an additional political declaration to help pass the agreement in London.


9:30 a.m.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is ruling out any renegotiation of the divorce agreement with Britain but says elements of the Brexit deal could still be clarified.

Briefing EU lawmakers in Strasbourg, France, on this week’s leader’s summit, Juncker said Tuesday that “there is no room whatsoever for renegotiation” of the divorce deal.

But he added that “if used intelligently, (there) is room enough to give further clarification and further interpretations without opening the withdrawal agreement.”

Juncker, who is set to meet British Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday evening, underlined that “the deal we have achieved is the best deal possible. It is the only deal possible.”


9:20 a.m.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is launching her fight to save her Brexit deal over breakfast with her Dutch counterpart, the first of a string of meeting with European leaders in coming days.

May arrived early Tuesday at Rutte’s official residence in The Hague and was travelling later in the day to Berlin and Brussels.

Her whistle-stop tour came on the day that British lawmakers had been scheduled to vote on Brexit.

Instead, May went to the House of Commons on Monday and conceded that the divorce deal she struck last month with EU leaders was likely to be rejected “by a significant margin” and postponed the vote.

May said she would seek “assurances” from the EU and bring the deal back to Parliament.