Brexit: MPs back move to replace Border backstop

House of Commons rejects amendments aimed at stopping no-deal and delaying EU departure

The House of Commons has passed an amendment to Theresa May’s Brexit deal which aims to replace the Northern Irish backstop with “alternative arrangements” to avoid a hard border in Ireland. Video: Parliamentlive.tv

 

The House of Commons has passed an amendment to Theresa May’s Brexit deal which aims to replace the Northern Irish backstop with “alternative arrangements” to avoid a hard border in Ireland.

The proposal to reopen the withdrawal agreement and find a different solution to the Border issue brought by Conservative Sir Graham Brady was backed by 317 votes to 301 votes. It was one of seven amendments put to the House on Tuesday evening.

The so-called backstop, an insurance policy to prevent the return of a hard border in Ireland, would keep the UK in a common customs area with EU in the absence of a free-trade deal.

The prime minster said that the result showed there was a means of securing a “substantial and sustainable majority in this House for leaving the EU with a deal” and vowed to seek a new agreement with Brussels.

A spokesman for European Council president Donald Tusk said: “The withdrawal agreement is and remains the best and only way to ensure an orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union. The backstop is part of withdrawal agreement and the withdrawal agreement is not up for renegotiation.”

The Irish Government issued a terse statement which stressed that the “withdrawal agreement is not open for renegotiation.”

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“The EU position on the withdrawal agreement, including the backstop, is set out in the conclusions of the December meeting of the European Council. It has not changed,” the Government said. It said that the administration would “continue our preparations for all outcomes, including for a no-deal scenario”.

An amendment brought forward by Labour MP Yvette Cooper lost by 23 votes, 321 to 298. It aimed to postpone Brexit to the end of the year if Mrs May failed to secure a deal by February 26th. Labour MP Rachel Reeves’s proposal which did not specify how long article 50 should be extended for was also rejected.

MPs voted 327 to 296 against a proposal made by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn which called for parliament to consider alternative options to prevent Britain leaving the European Union without a deal.

Conservative MP Dominic Grieve’s proposal was defeated narrowly by 321 votes to 301. It sought to provide six days to debate and vote on alternative options if the withdrawal agreement is rejected, in a bid to avoid a no-deal scenario.

MPs backed a vote brought by Conservative Dame Caroline Spelman and Labour’s Jack Dromey which states that the UK will not leave the EU without a deal. It is only advisory and has no legislative force.

The vote is not legally binding on the government but will impose massive political pressure on Mrs May to delay Brexit from its scheduled date of March 29th if she cannot secure a new deal from Brussels. She told MPs: “I agree that we should not leave without a deal. However, simply opposing no-deal is not enough to stop it.

“The government will now redouble its efforts to get a deal that this House can support.”

There was uproar in the chamber as she said: “There is limited appetite for such a change in the EU and negotiating it will not be easy. But in contrast to a fortnight ago, this House has made it clear what it needs to approve a withdrawal agreement.”

Mrs May said she would seek “legally binding changes to the withdrawal agreement that deal with concerns on the backstop while guaranteeing no return to a hard border”.

An amendment put forward by the Scottish National Party seeking to extend article 50 and to ensure Scotland was not taken out of the EU without its consent was also defeated.

Earlier on Tuesday, leading Conservative Brexiteers and Remainers produced a joint proposal to replace the Northern Ireland backstop with tariff-free trade and technological measures to keep the Border open. – Agencies

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