May’s cabinet to consider alternative Border proposal in Brexit deal
Legally-binding commitment would look to find other solutions by the end of 2020
A spokesman for British prime minister Theresa May said any commitment made in British law would be consistent with that instrument and with the withdrawal agreement itself. Photograph: Hannah Mckay/Reuters/File
Theresa May’s cabinet will consider a proposal to include in the Withdrawal Agreement Bill a legally-binding commitment to agree alternative arrangements for the Border by the end of 2020.
The commitment would be part of a package of measures aimed at winning support in a crucial vote on the Bill in two weeks.
“We have announced already £20 million in funding in relation to alternative arrangements and one area we can look at is making sure MPs have assurances that we’re working towards having alternative arrangements in place by December 2020 to ensure we never have to enter into the backstop,” the prime minister’s official spokesman said.
“The EU have already made that commitment themselves that they want to work with us with the ambition of having alternative arrangements in place by December 2020. We obviously have not reflected that in domestic legislation up to this point.”
At a meeting in Strasbourg in March, Mrs May agreed with the EU a legal instrument detailing how the two sides would work towards replacing the Northern Ireland backstop with alternative arrangements to ensure that the Border remains open after Brexit. The prime minister’s spokesman said any commitment made in British law would be consistent with that instrument and with the withdrawal agreement itself.
“In order to ratify the deal, we have to implement the withdrawal agreement that was reached with Brussels,” he said.
The government is expected to introduce the Bill when parliament returns from its Whitsun recess on June 4th, with a vote on its second reading on June 7th.
If MPs approve the second reading, the Bill can go on to be debated and amendments can be introduced but the government does not yet appear to have enough support to win the vote.
Mrs May has promised to meet the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers after the second reading vote to agree a timetable for a leadership election and her resignation.
Moderate Conservative MPs including work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd on Monday night formed a new One Nation group to influence the leadership election and the party’s future direction.
“We are going to be stepping up, making ourselves heard because we are proud and honest and strong about what we believe in. And we believe that this time, more than ever, we need to shape the changing Conservative Party,” Ms Rudd said.
Shake it off
Nigel Farage accused “radicalised Remainers” of making election campaigning impossible after he was hit by a milkshake during a walkabout for his Brexit Party in Newcastle.
“Sadly some Remainers have become radicalised, to the extent that normal campaigning is becoming impossible. For a civilised democracy to work you need the losers consent, politicians not accepting the referendum result have led us to this,” Mr Farage said after the incident.
Northumbria Police said they had arrested a 32-year-old man on suspicion of common assault.
Meanwhile, former deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine has had the Conservative whip suspended after saying he would vote for the Liberal Democrats in Thursday’s European election.
The lifelong pro-European said he would “experiment” with voting Liberal Democrat because of the government’s Brexit policy.
A Conservative spokesman said: “Lord Heseltine has given more than half a century of service to the Conservative Party and his long-standing and sincerely held views on Europe are well understood.
“But, with his long experience, he will know that publicly endorsing the candidates of an another party is not compatible with taking the Conservative whip in parliament.
“As a result, the Chief Whip in the House of Lords has informed Lord Heseltine that he will have the Conservative whip suspended.
“This will be reviewed if he is willing to support Conservative candidates at future elections.”
The peer used a Sunday Times article to explain his decision.
“I cannot, with a clear conscience, vote for my party when it is myopically focused on forcing through the biggest act of economic self-harm ever undertaken by a democratic government,” he said. – Additional reporting: PA