Breakthrough On Brexit Within British Parliament

Breakthrough With Brexit Theresa May is expected to continue talks with EU leaders in the coming days after MPs backed a proposal for her to renegotiate her Brexit deal....

Breakthrough With Brexit

Theresa May is expected to continue talks with EU leaders in the coming days after MPs backed a proposal for her to renegotiate her Brexit deal. MPs voted 317 to 301 in favour of replacing the backstop – the insurance policy designed to avoid a hard border in Ireland in the event of no deal.

But the EU has said it will not change the legal text agreed with the UK PM. Employers’ group the CBI said businesses are likely to accelerate their plans for a no-deal Brexit.

Carolyn Fairbairn, head of the CBI, said: “I don’t think there will be a single business this morning who is stopping or halting their no-deal planning as a result of what happened yesterday. The amendment feels like a real throw of the dice.”

The PM has invited Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn to discuss a solution after MPs backed an amendment rejecting no deal. May said that, after taking the votes into account and talking to the EU, her revised deal would be brought back to the Commons “as soon as possible” for a second “meaningful vote”.

However, various EU leaders have suggested there will be no revisions to the deal, with European Council President Donald Tusk saying: “The backstop is part of the withdrawal agreement, and the withdrawal agreement is not open for renegotiation.”

French President Emmanuel Macron also said the agreement was “not renegotiable”, while Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said the backstop arrangement remained “necessary” despite the vote.

Tusk added the EU would, however, be willing to look at the political declaration again – the part of the deal that makes a pledge on the future relationship between the UK and the EU – and that the EU would “stand ready” to consider any “reasoned request” for an extension to the leave date of March 29.

Former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab told BBC Radio 4’s Today program: “The EU themselves said: ‘Tell us what you want’. We’re going back. The prime minister’s hand is strengthened – with some discreet, focused and eminently reasonable changes to the backstop.”

He insisted that changes to the deal could be made, adding: “The question isn’t whether the EU can do it, it’s whether they want to do it – the ball is squarely in their court.”

An amendment rejecting a no-deal Brexit also won the support of Parliament on Tuesday – but the vote was not binding, meaning the date for exit remains March 29. Nevertheless, Corbyn said as a result of the message from MPs rejecting no deal, he would now meet the prime minister to discuss the next steps.

Renegotiation ‘will not be easy’

It was one of the main reasons May’s Brexit deal was voted down a Parliament by an historic margin earlier in January as critics say a different status for Northern Ireland could threaten the existence of the UK and fear that the backstop could become permanent.

She told the Commons there was now a “substantial and sustainable” majority of MPs supporting leaving the EU with a deal, but admitted renegotiation “will not be easy”. The leader of the Democratic Unionist Party in Westminster, Nigel Dodds, said it was a “significant night” and his MPs would work with the prime minister “to deliver the right deal for the United Kingdom”.

But the leader of the SNP in Westminster, Ian Blackford, said that passing the amendment had seen the government “rip up the Good Friday Agreement” – integral to the peace process in Northern Ireland. Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable said the Commons had given the prime minister “contradictory instructions to have no deal but pursue a course of action that will lead to a no deal”.

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