Wed. 8:38 a.m.: May says UK mulling options to amend Brexit deal

BRUSSELS (AP) — British Prime Minister Theresa May says her government hasn’t decided exactly how it will try to change the European Union divorce deal to address concerns about the Irish border.

Parliament voted Tuesday to replace a border measure in the agreement with unspecified “alternative arrangements.” Many U.K. lawmakers fear the “backstop” measure — designed to ensure the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland remains free of customs checks — will trap Britain in regulatory lockstep with the EU.

Asked in the House of Commons today what alternatives Britain was proposing, May said “there are a number of proposals for how that could be done.” She said measures under consideration included a unilateral exit mechanism for Britain, a time limit to the backstop and “mutual recognition and trusted trader schemes.”

The EU insists the withdrawal deal can’t be renegotiated.

The European Union is taking measures to protect university students involved in the Erasmus exchange program in case the United Kingdom crashes out of the EU on March 29 without a deal in place.

EU Commission vice president Frans Timmermans announced proposals to enable the 14,000 EU students in Britain and the 7,000 UK students in the 27 remaining member states to finish their work “without interruption” despite Brexit.

The Erasmus program on student exchanges across the EU has been one of the most popular initiatives of the bloc.

The EU has started taking contingency measures to make sure a possible no-deal departure would be as smooth as possible, even though it acknowledges it will still be very fractious.

Germany’s foreign minister says Berlin is willing to continue talks with Britain but is emphasizing the current Brexit agreement is the best one available.

Heiko Maas told the Funke newspaper group today it is important that British lawmakers have spoken out against a no-agreement departure from the European Union, saying that is in nobody’s interest.

But he called for clarity on how Britain wants to change the so-called “backstop,” the safeguard mechanism proposed to regulate the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland after Brexit.

He says Germany is open to talks, “but our position is clear: the withdrawal agreement is the best and only solution for an orderly exit. Regarding the backstop, Germany and the entire Union are firmly on Ireland’s side. We will not allow Ireland to be isolated on this issue.”

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