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After two defeats in two days, Theresa May considering Brexit concessions to win over Labour MPs

May is said to be considering backing a Labour amendment on workers’ rights to try to sway some MPs to her cause.

Theresa May at Prime Minister's Questions yesterday
Theresa May at Prime Minister's Questions yesterday
Image: House of Commons/PA Images

THERESA MAY IS facing an uphill battle to save her Brexit deal, and is said to be considering making important concessions to the opposition Labour party to try to secure the support of some of its MPs with Tuesday’s vote looming.

The UK Prime Minister is coming on the back of two defeats in two days in the House of Commons. Firstly, senior members of her own party voted against the government with a vote passing to curb the powers she would have in the event of a no-deal.

Yesterday, MPs voted in favour of the Grieve Amendment, which means May will have to come back to parliament with a Brexit “plan B” within three days if her own Brexit plans are voted down in the vote planned for Tuesday.

In light of the increasing pressure, the prime minister is considering accepting a Labour amendment that would provide additional safeguards on workers’ rights and environmental protections, the BBC reported.

May already cancelled a vote on her Brexit deal before Christmas, after it became apparent she didn’t have the support to get it through.

The main sticking point for Brexiteers, within her own party and the DUP, is the provision of a Northern Ireland backstop in the deal. This backstop would avoid a hard border in Ireland but also keep the UK in regulatory alignment with the EU. 

DUP leader Arlene Foster told BBC Newsline yesterday that May’s deal was already “dead” and that the prime minister was continuing to “waste time” trying to get her deal through.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and EU counterparts have repeatedly said they would not make concessions on the backstop.

Veto 

Speaking in Ethiopia yesterday, Varadkar said a proposal for Stormont to have a veto over conditions attached to the backstop would not be acceptable. 

“I don’t think we could have a situation whereby the Northern Ireland Executive or Assembly had a veto power because that would essentially give one of the two communities a veto power over the other and that would create a difficulty,” the Irish Independent reports him as saying. 

Varadkar added that the people of Northern Ireland want to avoid a hard border – something the current Brexit agreement provides for.

There are now mere weeks away before the UK is due to leave the EU on 29 March. With the likelihood of May’s deal being defeated, that leaves a few options left to the UK.

It can seek to delay the date it’s set to leave. It could hold a second referendum, although that appears unlikely at this time. Or it could crash out without a deal.

Today, the House of Commons will begin a second day of debate on Prime Minister May’s Brexit deal.

She has warned that if MPs reject her deal, Britain would still leave the EU on 29 March, with or without any new arrangements.

With reporting by Órla Ryan 

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Sean Murray

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