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Crunch week in tortuous Brexit process

There have been many key stages on the UK's journey out of the EU but this week is being widely seen as a defining moment in this tortuous process.

Certainly, it is a crucial week for Theresa May whose withdrawal agreement is due to be put to the House of Commons today.

Ahead of the vote, it was by no means certain that the prime minister would be able to carry the day.

Indeed, there is a widespread view that the deal is likely to be voted down, the only question being the scale of the defeat.

Meanwhile, Mrs May has been engaged in last ditch discussions to find a breakthrough before the vote with negotiations between the EU and British officials said to be deadlocked at the weekend.

If, as expected, the withdrawal deal is rejected today, attention will turn to the next stage in the parliamentary process, which is due to be a vote on whether a no-deal Brexit should be taken off the table.

If MPs support ruling out a no-deal, then the next step will be a vote on extending Article 50, essentially delaying Brexit.

However, amid signs of hardening attitudes on the EU side, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said yesterday that any extension must have a purpose, warning against a 'rolling cliff edge' where decisions get put off until April, May or even July.

So, this promises to be a significant week with no clarity on what will happen next or even if the prime minister can survive what could be a turbulent period.

This is an incredible position for any British government to be in just days away from the withdrawal date on March 29.

From the perspective of Ireland, north and south, a no-deal Brexit must be avoided at all costs.

As it prepares to vote this week, the DUP must listen to responsible voices in business and the wider community and act in the best interests of Northern Ireland.

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