In a last-minute attempt to resolve the Brexit crisis, British Prime Minister Theresa May has secured a package of measures on the Irish backstop with the European Union which she hopes will allow her to get the final withdrawal deal through the House of Commons today.
And if statement from European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is anything to go by, this is the final round when it comes to the EU making any further concessions.
“In politics sometimes you get a second chance,” Junker said.
“It is what we do with that second chance that counts. There will be no third chance.”
He added: “Let us speak crystal clear about the choice – it is this deal or Brexit might not happen at all.”
Even before the full content of the concessions broke fully, Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn labelled the deal as a failure and has called for a rejection of the vote today. It is still unclear however if Labour supports further negotiations or a reboot people vote at this point.
“The Prime Minister’s negotiations have failed,” he said.
This evening’s agreement with the European Commission does not contain anything approaching the changes Theresa May promised parliament,” Corbyn said in a statement. “That’s why Members of Parliament must reject this deal tomorrow.”
So what has been agreed?
The first is a “joint legally binding instrument” on the withdrawal agreement.
Prime Minister May said it could be used to start a “formal dispute” against the EU if it tried to keep the UK tied into the backstop indefinitely.
The second is a “joint statement” which adds a declaration about the UK and EU’s future relationship. The new addition is a commitment to replacing the backstop with alternative arrangements before December 2020.
This will be supplemented by a further document put forward by the British government which will be labelled as a “unilateral declaration”. This outlines the UK’s position that there is nothing to prevent it from leaving the backstop arrangement if discussions on a future relationship with the EU break down and there is no prospect of an agreement.
If the new deal is rejected?
If MPs decide to vote against Mrs May’s proposal today, then it is on to a vote on whether the UK should leave without a deal or not which is expected to take place tomorrow. If there is a no-deal Brexit in this vote, then the UK will leave with nothing agreed on 29 March. Finally, if a no-deal Brexit is rejected, then they could get a vote on Thursday on delaying Brexit from the union.
The Irish question
According to Jean-Claude Juncker, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has signed off on strengthened guarantees offered to London to help pass the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.
“I have spoken to the Taoiseach this evening who would be prepared to accept this solution in the interest of securing an overall deal,” Mr Juncker said in a press conference late last night.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar called a late night meeting with his ministers on Monday to discuss the proposal and had taken a call from junker during the meeting in which he was apprised of the outcome of the Strasbourg negotiations. An announcement is expected this morning from Dublin. As far as it is known, Dublin seems comfortable that there is nothing in this new agreement that threatens the Good Friday Agreement.
The DUP has been cautious in a statement on the new deal this morning.
“All of this will need to be taken together and analysed very carefully because we are speaking at the moment without having had sight of the precise text,” said deputy leader Nigel Dodds.
The key player – Cox
No doubt the DUP will be waiting to influence this deal as much as possible but it may be down to British Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox on the legalities of this new arrangement. He is likely to be the main player this morning and if it’s a thumbs up from Cox, it will be all hands on deck to get the new motions though.
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