PM Theresa May wants to re-open Brexit deal, EU says no
The House of Commons began a day-long debate on May’s Brexit Plan B after the agreement was voted down earlier this month. She promised to return to parliament with a revised agreement that will be put to vote, likely on February 14.Updated: Jan 29, 2019 22:10 IST
British Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday sought parliamentary approval to return to Brussels to re-negotiate the withdrawal agreement, but EU officials insisted that it is not possible to re-open talks on the controversial ‘backstop’ for Ireland-Northern Ireland.
The House of Commons began a day-long debate on May’s Brexit Plan B after the agreement was voted down earlier this month. She promised to return to parliament with a revised agreement that will be put to vote, likely on February 14.
The House was due to vote on Tuesday evening on a series of amendments to the Plan B, on issues such as ruling out leaving the EU without an agreement, extending Article 50, and an alternative to the ‘backstop’ that has emerged as the main sticking point across parties.
May said she knew there was a “limited appetite” in the EU to re-open talks, but she believed she could “secure” it and return with “significant and legally binding change.”
The backstop is supposed to be an insurance policy to prevent a hard border between Ireland (EU country) and Northern Ireland (part of the UK) if trade talks are not finalised by the end of the transition period in December 2020.
According to May, her government is “in reach of a deal the House can stand behind”. She said when she returns to Brussels she needs the strongest voice behind her, adding that the amendments “provide a cacophony of voices when we need just one”.
Urging MPs to “give me the mandate I need” to return to Brussels and demand that the withdrawal agreement be re-negotiated, she said: “The time has come for words to be matched by deeds…if you want Brexit you have to vote for Brexit.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has refused to join talks with May to find a way out of the impasse, asked which of the red lines she had changed since the deal was defeated two weeks ago: “She is refusing to accept the clearly stated will of this House”.
Labour wants that after Brexit, the United Kingdom should remain in EU customs union to prevent adverse impact on trade and jobs. Corbyn said a “permanent customs union” is a “pragmatic solution that helps deliver the Brexit that people voted for”.
There was some softening of rebellion from within the Conservative Party after former foreign secretary and leading Brexiteer Boris Johnson extended support to May’s latest approach if she confirmed she would re-open negotiations with Brussels.
First Published: Jan 29, 2019 20:43 IST