(Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)
(Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)

London: UK MPs will vote on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal on Tuesday after she secured “legally binding” changes to the agreement following last-minute talks with the EU in Strasbourg. She travelled to Strasbourg in pursuit of some movement from the EU on the Irish backstop that would persuade Eurosceptics in Parliament to vote for her Brexit deal, which went down to defeat in January by a record 230 votes.

May said the changes meant the Irish backstop — the insurance policy designed to avoid a hard border between the Irish Republic and the UK province of Northern Ireland — could not “become permanent”, the BBC reported. At a press conference with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, May said she had delivered what Parliament asked her to do.

But opposition Labour Party said the talks had failed. Speaking alongside May in Strasbourg on Monday, Juncker warned if the deal was voted down, there would be “no third chance”. “The Prime Minister and I have agreed on a joint legally binding instrument relating to the Withdrawal Agreement. This instrument provides meaningful clarifications and legal guarantees on the nature of the backstop,” he said.

“There will be no third chance. There will be no further interpretations of the interpretations, no further assurances of the re-assurances if the meaningful vote tomorrow fails. “The backstop is an insurance policy, nothing more, nothing less. The intention is for it not to be used, like in every insurance policy.

UK lawmakers “were clear that legal changes were needed to the backstop. Today we have secured legal changes”, May said on Monday ahead of the Parliament’s vote on her Brexit proposal. “Now is the time to come together to back this improved Brexit deal and deliver on the instruction of the British people,” she said.

She was expected to chair a Cabinet meeting before the motion was debated in the Commons in the afternoon and votes were held in the evening. The Democratic Unionist Party, whose support May relies on in the Commons, said it would be “scrutinising the text line by line” before deciding whether to back the deal.

The UK is set to leave the EU on March 29, 2019. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn urged MPs to vote against the deal when it returns to the Commons, saying May had “recklessly run down the clock” on negotiations. Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable said Monday’s outcome showed the Brexit negotiations were in disarray.

Independent Group MP Chris Leslie said the government’s “Brexit fudge fools nobody”. The late night news conference in Strasbourg followed an announcement in London by UK Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington that the government would be presenting two new documents to the House of Commons.

He described the texts as a “legally binding instrument on the Withdrawal Agreement and protocol on Northern Ireland and a joint statement to supplement the political declaration”. The legal binder affirms that the EU could not trap the UK in the backstop indefinitely, Lidington said. If the vote on Tuesday fails, May has pledged to give the House of Commons an opportunity to vote on two additional resolutions: One on a no-deal Brexit; the other on delaying Brexit beyond the March 29 date enshrined in law.

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Free Press Journal