May still hopes for changes to Brexit deal

Daniel Fowler
March 12, 2019

During the negotiations on Monday with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Strasbourg, May secured legally binding changes that "strengthen and improve" the original Brexit agreement, her Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington told reporters Monday evening.

"If the votes go this week in a way which means that the Prime Minister's policy as she has set out and stuck to rigidly over the course of the last two-and-a-bit a years is taken away, dismantled slowly by Parliament this week, I think it would be very hard for the Prime Minister to stay in office for very much longer".

The main disagreement over the border issue has been over an EU-suggested backstop - keeping Northern Ireland in the EU single market and the Customs Union after Brexit until a solution is found - because it would create a sort of a border within the the Irish Sea.

May's spokesman, Slack, said the vote "will take place tomorrow", but it was unclear exactly what motion would be put to lawmakers.

The Times newspaper reported Monday, citing leading Tories in the Commons, that senior United Kingdom lawmakers from the ruling Conservative Party have called on May to postpone Tuesday's vote on the Brexit deal unless the European Union agrees to major concessions in order to prevent another humiliating defeat in parliament.

Outlining tactics for Tuesday's vote, the opposition Labour Party said it wouldn't offer an amendment to force a second referendum.

The EU and Britain have also agreed a joint statement to supplement the Political Declaration, Lidington said.

But talks appeared to be stuck over the final point - a United Kingdom statement which would help the Attorney General change his legal advice on whether the backstop would last forever or not.

There has been speculation that the beleaguered prime minister may be forced to resign. As a result, she can not be forced from office for a year.

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The EU will not budge on the backstop, and that means either Parliament will have to accept the previous agreement with the EU, vote for a no-deal exit, or delay Brexit for more negotiations.

So far, there's been widespread skepticism that she can win enough votes to push it through - her previous version of the plan lost by a stunning 230 votes in January.

After that expected defeat, the Commons will vote on Wednesday over whether to keep a no deal Brexit on the table.

If that no-deal option is rejected, MPs could get a vote on Thursday on whether to request a delay to Brexit from the EU.

However, May could come back with another attempt at a meaningful vote at some point over the course of the week, especially if she only loses by a narrow amount.

The set to leave the bloc on March 29 as a result of a 2016 referendum where British voters chose to leave the union after more than 40 years of membership.

Mr Hunt said there was now "wind in the sails" of the opponents of Brexit and that it would be "devastating" for the Conservatives if they failed to deliver on their commitment to take Britain out of the EU.

May has an RAF plane on standby ready to take her to Brussels to win more concessions from the European Union, hours before Tuesday's main vote, which might just swing lawmakers behind her deal.

Some in the ERG are expected to hold out against the deal no matter what May comes back with and do everything they can to nudge the United Kingdom towards a no-deal Brexit. This would probably have to involve some more incentives for Labour MPs, such as giving parliament more control over the shape of the future relationship.

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