United Kingdom has secured ‘legally binding’ way around Brexit backstop with EU - May

Minnie Murray
March 12, 2019

Despite the Prime Minister supposedly securing "legally binding" changes, the DUP has not openly confirmed its support for Mrs May's deal as of yet.

In the past few hours Mrs May held a late-night meeting with the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Strasbourg to secure the agreement.

The deal was struck over more than a year of tough negotiations, and covers Britain's financial settlement, expatriate rights, the Irish border and plans for a transition period.

Meanwhile, the prime minister's office refuted as "complete speculation" the media reports that the United Kingdom government could switch a meaningful Brexit vote in the Commons on Tuesday to an indicative one.

With Conservative MPs on both sides of the Brexit argument debating her prospects after the vote, health secretary Matt Hancock warned about the consequences of a Commons defeat.

The prime minister has now secured some guarantees on the hated backstop arrangement, meant to keep open the Irish border.

Finally, the document would put assurances European Union leaders about the temporary nature of the backstop "onto a legally binding footing", Lidington said.

If MPs reject a no-deal scenario, there will be a further voted on Thursday on extending Article 50 beyond the current March 29 deadline.

The EU, meanwhile, is frustrated at what it sees as the inability of Britain's weak and divided government to lay out a clear vision for Brexit - and because May is seeking changes to an agreement she helped negotiate.

Of course, if Brexit takes place with a deal, or if it is delayed or cancelled, these changes will not come into effect.

"[May secured] legally binding changes that strengthen and improve the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration", Lidington said as quoted by The Telegraph newspaper.

However, her party has also confirmed that it will not push for a parliamentary vote on a second referendum this week even if the Brexit deal is resoundingly defeated.

May has been seeking changes from the European Union that might persuade enough lawmakers to back the deal.

Juncker published clarifications to the Brexit deal in a letter posted to Twitter, warning "it is this deal, or #Brexit may not happen at all". She survived a bid to oust her through a no-confidence vote in December, so can't be forced from office for a year.

"The EU will continue working intensively over the coming days to ensure that the United Kingdom leaves the EU with an agreement".

Lidington said that "negotiations are continuing" in Strasbourg, and the British government will update Parliament at the "earliest opportunity".

Labour MPs pressing for a "common market 2.0" kind of Brexit said they were conducting intensive shuttle diplomacy between Jeremy Corbyn's team and Conservative MPs who might be ready to back the idea.

Meanwhile, public health minister Steve Brine has warned that he will resign unless Tory MPs are given a free vote in a vote expected later in the week on whether Britain should leave the European Union without a deal.

Delaying the meaningful vote would be another humiliation for the prime minister after senior ministers spent the weekend insisting it would go ahead as planned.

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