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UK PM Theresa May faces uphill task to secure changes in Brexit deal

Faced with no-negotiation stand from EU, British Prime Minister Theresa May insisted she could secure changes that will allay concerns on the so-called ‘backstop’ and ensure its endorsement by Parliament.

world Updated: Jan 30, 2019 23:33 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Brexit,Theresa May,Jeremy Corbyn
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May is seen outside Downing Street in London. (REUTERS)

Faced with a firm EU stance that the Brexit agreement is not open for re-negotiation, British Prime Minister Theresa May insisted on Wednesday she could secure changes that will allay concerns on the so-called ‘backstop’ and ensure its endorsement by Parliament.

There were mixed views on the passage of an amendment to her Brexit plans in the House of Commons on Tuesday. May’s allies saw it as a victory while others — including EU leaders in Brussels and elsewhere — said it had not changed anything, as the scene shifted to Brussels.

After it was clear that there is no majority in the House for leaving the EU on March 29 without an agreement — considered the worst case scenario — Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn agreed to meet May, who had earlier rejected his demand to rule out a no-deal Brexit.

“Tonight a majority of honourable members have said they would support a deal with changes to the backstop… It is now clear that there is a route that can secure a substantial and sustainable majority in this House for leaving the EU with a deal,” May said after the government-supported amendment was passed.

“We will now take this mandate forward and seek to obtain legally binding changes to the Withdrawal Agreement that deal with concerns on the backstop while guaranteeing no return to a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland,” she said.

Amidst fatigue and weariness in the UK and elsewhere over the continuing Brexit impasse, May is expected to travel to Brussels on Thursday.

The amendment seeking changes to the ‘backstop’ mentions ‘alternative arrangements’ to avoid a hard border in Ireland-Northern Ireland, but despite persistent queries, May and her ministers would not clarify.

“The political declaration (agreed along with the withdrawal agreement) already references alternative arrangements and raises a number of proposals that can be addressed, such as mutual recognition of trusted trader schemes,” May said on Wednesday.

“What has been absolutely clear in my contacts with European leaders is that they want a deal. What this house voted for was to leave with a deal. But it also crucially showed what it will take to see support in this house for a deal in the future. It shows we can have a sustainable majority in this house,” she said.

EU leaders said they were united in the stand that the withdrawal agreement is not open to re-negotiation.

First Published: Jan 30, 2019 20:30 IST