Last-Minute Changes of Brexit Deal Agreed by May, Juncker before UK Parliament Vote
The amendments would allow the UK to take legal action against the EU if the Union tried to keep Britain tied by the Northern Ireland backstop indefinitely.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and British Prime Minister Theresa May have announced amendments to the EU – UK Brexit deal which are supposed to mitigate the concerns of the British Parliament.
Juncker and May announced the Brexit deal changes at a joint news conference in Strasbourg after a late evening meeting.
The amendments were agreed the night before the UK Parliament votes again on the Brexit deal, after it struck down May’s original deal in the worst parliamentary defeat in British history in January 2019.
May flew out to the European Parliament in Strasbourg late on Monday with her Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay for last-ditch talks ahead of the parliamentary vote in London, the BBC reports.
May and Barclay negotiated two political documents with Juncker and the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier: a “joint legally binding instrument” on the withdrawal agreement, and a “joint statement” adding to the political declaration (the statement in the deal about the UK and EU’s future relationship.
The second document refers stipulates a commitment to replacing the backstop deal on the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland with alternative arrangements by December 2020.
The Northern Ireland backstop, which is supposed to prevent the establishment of a hard border between it and EU member Ireland after Brexit, has been probably the hottest bone of contention in the Brexit talks.
British critics fear it will encroach on the integrity of the United Kingdom and/or will keep Britain tied to the EU indefinitely. The EU has sought to rebuff such criticism by arguing that the backstop, “if used [it] will apply temporarily”.
“[The British] MPs were clear that legal changes were needed to the backstop. Today we have secured legal changes,” UK leader May stated alongside EC chief Juncker in Strasbourg.
“Now is the time to come together to back this improved Brexit deal and deliver on the instruction of the British people,” she added.
May also emphasized that the changes agreed upon together with the EU would allow the UK to sue (or start a “formal dispute”) against the Union if the latter tried to keep Britain tied into the backstop indefinitely.
The UK leader also revealed her Cabinet was going to put forth a third document regarding the amended Brexit deal, a “unilateral declaration”.
It would spell out the UK’s position that there was nothing to prevent it from leaving the backstop deal if the negotiations with the EU on the future bilateral relationship were to fail, and there would be chance of an agreement.
“[The EU] cannot try to trap the UK in the [Irish] backstop indefinitely,” said UK Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington, as he announced the Brexit deal changes to the British House of Commons shortly before the May – Juncker press conference.
During her late-night public appearance with Juncker she made it clear she would be opening the amended Brexit deal debate on Tuesday for the “meaningful vote” in the British Parliament.
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labor Party, was quick to criticize May’s amended deal with the EU as not containing “anything approaching the changes” she had promised the British Parliament.
(Banner image: Theresa May on Twitter)