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Theresa May says UK still wants the backstop tweak, and tees up another vote

A debate on the Brexit withdrawal deal was due to be voted on by tomorrow – as there’s been no change, that’s been pushed back.

lol HOC Source: UK Parliament

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER Theresa May has said that legally binding changes need to be made to the backstop, and listed the three different options she suggested to the EU. 

In a statement to the House of Commons today, May said that the EU have been told that alternative arrangements could be given to the current backstop, which proposes certain regulatory alignment on the island of Ireland in order to avoid a hard border.

The other two options the EU were told was a legally binding time limit, or legally binding unilateral exit, both of which have been opposed by the EU and Ireland.

In response to a question from MP Chris Leslie, May denied that putting a time limit on the backstop would be like putting a time limit on the Good Friday Agreement. 

She said that “when we achieve the progress we need” on the backstop, that the UK government “will bring forward another meaningful vote” in the House of Commons.

She said that if there is no progress on this by 26 February, then a vote will be held on 27 February.

The government on Tuesday 26 February, will make a statement and table an amendable motion relating to the statement… A minister will move that motion on 27 February, thereby allowing the house of vote on it. 

May also said that she and President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker would meet again before the end of February, and that the British Attorney General had been in Dublin to meet with his Irish counterpart.

The UK parliament rejected the deal negotiated between the EU and UK negotiating teams over two years, with most Tory MPs voicing their opposition to the Irish backstop.

It was rejected by a historic majority of 432 votes against to 202 votes in favour. 

In a separate vote, the House of Commons voted in favour of an amendment that would replace the backstop with “alternative arrangements”, but that didn’t specify what those arrangements would be. 

Cheers and jeers

During the Prime Minister’s statement today on Leaving the EU, three moments in particular raised the loudest jeers and protestations from the House. 

The first was when May said that the UK had a “proud tradition in leading the way in workers’ rights…”, and the second was when she said that “businesses were in favour” of her Brexit deal. 

The third was when may claimed that she “wanted to have this sorted before Christmas”, leaving MPs furious and reminding her that she postponed the vote on the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, which was to be held on the 11 December, until 15 January – three weeks after Christmas.

In response to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s suggestions of a Brexit deal that would include a customs union, May said:

“The House of Commons has already voted against this… and in any case, membership of the Customs Union is a worse deal than that which is provided for in the political declaration.”

She said that these provisions would allow the UK “to strike trade deals around the world”.

Separately, Bank of England chief Mark Carney said that Brexit could become an “acid test” for how an economy like the UK’s could shift.

Previously, Carney said when asked whether he wakes up in morning wishing he wasn’t Bank of England governor during Brexit, responded:

“I don’t wake up in the morning any more… I wake up in the middle of the night.”

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