Theresa May turns on her own Brexit deal

Posted January 30, 2019

British Prime Minister Theresa May intends to give parliament a second chance to approve a Brexit deal as soon as possible, her spokesman says, adding that negotiations to change the deal so it can win lawmakers' support were ongoing.

Brussels has repeatedly said it does not want to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement, which has been signed off by the other 27 European Union leaders, and has said there must be a "backstop", a guarantee to ensure there is no return to a hard border between Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland.

Parliament defeated May's deal two weeks ago by a huge margin, with many Brexit-supporting rebels in her Conservative Party angry at the Irish "backstop", an insurance policy aimed at preventing a hard border in Ireland if no other solutions can be agreed.

The Prime Minister is preparing for another battle in Parliament this afternoon as MPs vote on a series of amendments to her Brexit plan.

MPs have voted to support Prime Minister Theresa May's withdrawal agreement if the controversial Irish border backstop is replaced with an alternative plan.

Both the European Union and the Irish government have been adamant that there can be no question of reopening the Withdrawal Agreement.

Opposition Labour Party lawmaker Yvette Cooper accused the government of squandering precious time.

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A sizeable Labour rebellion had been expected for several days, despite the efforts of Cooper to calm concerned MPs in her party by telling the Commons it only gave parliament the right to vote on whether to extend article 50 if time ran out.

Not all MPs back the plan.

Amendment I: Put forward by Conservative MP Caroline Spelman and supported by lawmakers from most political parties, it seeks to rule out a no-deal Brexit.

Prime Minister May says a special customs and trade arrangement with the European Union, to be negotiated during a status-quo transition of 20 to 44 months, will ensure seamless borders between all the United Kingdom and European Union - so there will be no need for intrusive checks on goods at the Irish border.

May has already spent months trying to amend the backstop with no success, but has promised to return to Brussels if that is what her MPs want.

Phinnemore said the Brady plan is in keeping with two years of British discussions that have failed to recognise the European position.

Labour's shadow cabinet met on Tuesday morning to discuss tactics before the Brexit debate in which MPs voted on a range of amendments selected by the Speaker at lunchtime.

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Conservative MPs who backed Theresa May's Brexit deal with the European Union when it was defeated this month are planning to ditch their previous support and try to force May to accept a closer relationship with the European Union instead.

May has urged them to support one measure that calls for the current backstop to be replaced with "alternative arrangements" - but the amendment, crafted by members of May's own Conservative Party, is unlikely to pass as pro-Brexit lawmakers believe it would fail to force significant changes to the measure.

Speaking hours before the vote, May beseeched parliament to reject any amendment that would take the prospect of a no-deal Brexit off the table.

Labour said it would seek to shorten any delay to Brexit, which is now set at nine months by Cooper.

But EU leaders insist they will not change the legally binding Brexit withdrawal agreement.

Whether MPs vote for May to renegotiate the backstop or even delay Brexit, this does not solve the UK's fundamental problem: the lack of a clear consensus.

European Commission vice-president Jyrki Kateinen said there was "no reason to give any concessions" to the United Kingdom and there was "not much room for manoeuvre" on the backstop.

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