Britain's Brexit drama faces parliament judgement day

Clay Curtis
March 14, 2019

May said Monday that she had secured "legally binding changes" to her Brexit deal, which addressed concerns over the Irish backstop, an insurance policy created to avoid a hard border in Ireland.

His comments came one day after British Prime Minister Theresa May secured legally binding changes to the deal in EU. It has the same legal status as the Withdrawal Agreement.

Geoffrey Cox, the attorney general, has delivered his legal advice to cabinet and it confirms that nothing has changed.

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Steve Baker, a pro-Brexit member of May's Conservative Party, said the new agreement seems to fall "short" of the plan he wanted to see. It was a narrower outcome than the historic 230-vote margin of defeat for the agreement in January, before May secured changes from the bloc - but not by much.

In a boost for May, former Brexit secretary David Davis said he could now be prepared to vote for her deal.

The first is a "joint legally binding instrument" which May said had "comparable legal weight" to the Brexit agreement itself and would "guarantee that the European Union can not act with the intent of applying the backstop indefinitely". It is legally binding.

"If they do, it can be challenged through arbitration and if they are found to be in breach the United Kingdom can suspend the backstop", the prime minister said.

"She said she had been advised this letter would have legal force in global law".

Today (12 March), UK parliament will vote on whether to accept May's Brexit deal or not.

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However-and this is a big "however"-a rejection of the concept does not mean a no-deal Brexit is off the table".

If the concessions are not deemed adequate, one plan being discussed in the ERG was whether to table an amendment to May's motion saying parliament's approval would be conditional on "alternative arrangements" being found to replace the Irish backstop.

'I would therefore like British MPs to support the measures, which are both British and European and which have taken form in agreed texts, an agreement at EU level'.

Mr Cox's advice is likely to weigh heavily on MPs when parliament votes on the new version of the deal on Tuesday.

"There will be no further interpretation of the interpretations and no further assurances on the reassurances".

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.

Brexit-supporting MPs had said they would look at what Mrs May achieved before the vote, but that she would have to show a clear way for the backstop to end.

On Wednesday, lawmakers are expected to reject a no-deal Brexit in a vote and on Thursday are then due to vote on whether to ask the European Union for a delay to Brexit, something to which all the bloc's other 27 members must agree. She, above all, retains the ability to ask for an extension and it is her deal MPs are voting on.

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