February 21, 2019

Brexit: Theresa May asks MPs to support alternative to Irish 'backstop'

31 January 2019, 02:16 | Randall Craig

Tolga Akmen AFP Getty Images FILE

Tolga Akmen  AFP  Getty Images FILE

"It was the latest disorienting chapter in a Brexit process that has grown increasingly surreal since Parliament rejected May's divorce deal two weeks ago, leaving Britain lurching toward a cliff-edge no-deal" departure from the bloc on March 29.

"There can be no change to the backstop". "Today we need to send an emphatic message about what we do want".

"Members of the House of Commons have taken away the main negotiating card", he said.

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

United Kingdom retailers have warned that a no-deal Brexit threatens the country's food security and will lead to higher prices and empty shelves in the short-term, reports the BBC. French President Emmanuel Macron said the agreement "is the best accord possible. It is not re-negotiable".

"We are extremely concerned that our customers will be among the first to experience the realities of a no deal Brexit". Now she's hoping a majority of British lawmakers will agree to back it - if it includes a new or altered arrangement to keep the Irish border "soft".

May's plan B hinges nearly entirely on convincing the European Union to reexamine the existing deal's so-called backstop proposal, which could see Britain tied to the bloc's trade rules to keep open the border with Ireland. They call for the contentious Irish backstop to expire by December 2021 or be removed from the Brexit deal altogether.

The prime minister told Cabinet she is ready to re-open Brexit talks to seek legally-binding changes to the backstop, in the hope of winning the support of Parliament for her Brexit deal. The EU, however, insists that it has no intention of changing the terms of last year's accord with London in any significant way.

The Institute for Government's Jill Rutter described it as "unnegotiable", based on ideas that had been rejected "time and again" by Brussels.

"There can be no change to the backstop", said Ireland's European Affairs Minister, Helen McEntee. "There is limited appetite for such a change in the European Union and negotiating it will not be easy", she said.

The gains come on the back of a market increasingly confident a "no deal" Brexit will be avoided as either 1) Prime Minister Theresa May's deal is ultimately approved by parliament or 2) Parliamentarians act to prevent a "no deal" Brexit from taking place on March 29.

May's approach drew praise from Brexit-backing lawmakers but prompted scorn from their pro-EU colleagues.

Labour MP Chuka Umunna, who has pushed for a second referendum, told Sky News that the torpedoing of the Cooper amendment, and another similar amendment, represented "a bad day for Parliament".

Green Party legislator Caroline Lucas accused May of chasing "heated-up fantasies that have already been rejected by the European Union".

Bosses at top supermarkets and food chains on Monday urged British lawmakers to avoid a no-deal Brexit or risk reducing the availability of many products.

NO-DEAL BREXIT: If Britain and the European Union do not finalize a divorce deal, Britain will cease to be an European Union member on March 29 without an agreement setting out what happens next.

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

Ahead of a meeting with Theresa May on Wednesday, Mr Drakeford said: "It is staggering that the prime minister should support calls to renegotiate the backstop".

While it will not be MPs' final verdict on the deal, they will vote on the amendments and, if one is passed, it will illustrate what changes to the deal might be enough to get a modified version of the deal through Parliament.

Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who resigned past year in opposition to the backstop and May's agreement, described the amendment's passage as "a victory for the prime minister, but also it's a victory for the U.K." as it allows May to return to Brussels stronger to negotiate changes.

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