Deal on Brexit Might be Softened So Long as 'Irish Backstop' is Temp

Published March 5th, 2019 - 02:00 GMT
Pro-Brexit activists hold placards as they demonstrate outside of the Houses of Parliament in London On February 26, 2019. (Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP)
Pro-Brexit activists hold placards as they demonstrate outside of the Houses of Parliament in London On February 26, 2019. (Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP)

British lawmakers, who once fiercely rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s European Union (EU) withdrawal agreement, have now softened their position to allow her go through the parliament with the deal just before Britain is officially expected to leave the bloc, several reports suggest.

The Sunday Times said a powerful parliamentary group of Conservative lawmakers, comprised of some 60 anti-EU MPs, had lowered their expectations from May’s Brexit deal by saying that they would support the deal in a vote in parliament on March 12 if a future mechanism for administration of the Irish border becomes temporary in nature so that UK’s Attorney General Jeffery Cox could confirm its legal value.

The European Research Group (ERG) had earlier demanded a total removal of the so-called Irish backstop clause from the Brexit deal signed with the EU in November. Its head Jacob Rees-Mogg said last week, however, that a clear legal opinion by Cox guarantying that the backstop will be temporary would be enough.

MP Graham Brady, who heads the ruling party’s supervisory committee of lawmakers not represented in the government, also wrote an article in the Mail on Sunday, saying May’s chances of securing her Brexit deal in the parliament had increased significantly.

“The Attorney General needs to give a legally binding guarantee that the backstop is temporary. Once we have that, my colleagues in Parliament need to recognize the strength of feeling,” said Brady.

The compromise on the backstop could also guarantee the support of lawmakers from the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland, whose support is needed for May to pass legislation in the House of Commons, said a report by the Metro newspaper.

May told the Commons earlier this week that lawmakers will be allowed to vote on March 13 and 14 on possibilities of a no-deal Brexit or an extension to the March-29 deadline of leaving the EU, respectively, if her deal is rejected in the parliament.

The statement sparked fears among pro-Brexit lawmakers, most of them in May’s Tory party, that Brexit could face an existential threat if they again reject prime minister’s deal after they dismissed it in an initial vote on January 15.

'Long delay impossible'

A senior government minister also said on Sunday that claims by anti-Brexit lawmakers that the EU will offer Britain a long delay to Brexit because of upcoming European elections were not true because the EU did not want Britain to contest the election.

Liam Fox, who serves as international trade secretary under May’s cabinet, rejected claims that a long delay to Brexit would enable Britain to even reverse Brexit altogether.

He told the BBC that attempts to thwart the votes of the British people in June 2016, who voted for their country to leave the EU, would be politically unacceptable.

“To attempt to have a delay mechanism in order to thwart the process of Brexit itself is actually politically completely unacceptable,” Fox said, adding that the best option for lawmakers in the Commons was to accept May’s deal.

Fox, a key ally of May, welcomed the general softening of position by ERG and DUP lawmakers on the backstop arrangements, saying it would help May’s deal go through the parliament.

“I hope it's a genuine attempt - and I think it is - to try to map out common territory,” he said.

This article has been adapted from its original source. 

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