Brexit: May says MPs may be given choice between backstop and extending transition

ECJ ruling on reversibility of Article 50 to be delivered on December 10th

UK prime minister Theresa May vows to honour the Belfast Agreement as MPs debate the proposed Brexit agreement. Video: UK Parliament TV

 

British prime minister Theresa May has signalled that MPs could be given the power to decide whether the UK goes into a controversial Brexit backstop arrangement that is designed to ensure an open Border in Ireland.

Mrs May indicated the British parliament would choose between triggering the backstop or extending a transition period after the UK formally quits the EU.

The move is likely to be seen as a bid to bolster flagging support ahead of a crunch House of Commons vote on her EU withdrawal agreement next Tuesday — a showdown she made clear she would not postpone.

Mrs May told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “There will be a choice between, if we get to that point, a choice between going into the backstop and extending the transition period.

“Now, there are pros and cons of both sides of that.

“People have a concern of the backstop, that we could be in it indefinitely.

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“But, in the backstop we have no financial obligations, we have no free movement, we have very light level playing field rules with the EU.

“In the implementation period, we still have to negotiate the terms, but there will be concerns about the fact that they would require, I’m sure they would require, some more money to be paid, for example.

“So there would be arguments on different sides.”

Asked if she would be happy for Parliament to adjudicate on whether to go into the backstop or extend implementation, the PM said: “I think people are concerned about the role of the UK in making these decisions.

“And, the obvious, in terms of the UK, is for it to be Parliament that makes these decisions.”

The backstop, intended to prevent the return of a hard Border in Northern Ireland, is highly controversial as Brexiteer MPs claim it traps the UK into obeying rules set by Brussels without a say over them.

The British government insists it aims to conclude a comprehensive trade deal with the EU before a backstop arrangement would be needed.

Mrs May said that any deal with the EU, such as a Canada-style free trade agreement favoured by some Brexiteers, would also require a backstop arrangement.

Mrs May’s comments came as the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) insisted it will withdraw support for her Government if the Prime Minister presses ahead with the Brexit deal with the EU.

Asked if the DUP was prepared to precipitate a general election, the party’s Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “If it comes to the point where the Government makes, shows, a determination to implement the Withdrawal Agreement with its damaging terms at present, or some future version of it, which is still equally damaging, we will not be supporting the Government.”

Meanwhile a European Court of Justice ruling on the reversibility of Article 50 will take place the day before MPs vote on Mrs May’s Brexit deal, the court has announced. It said in a tweet: “#Brexit: the ruling on the reversibility of #Article50 TEU (case C-621/18 Wightman) will be delivered on 10th December at 9 CET.” - PA