United Kingdom says 'legally binding changes' to Brexit deal agreed with EU

Frederick Owens
March 14, 2019

United Kingdom prime minister Theresa May has in Strasbourg secured last minute legal changes to the Irish backstop and is urging MPs to back her negotiated withdrawal agreement.

It comes amid reports Mrs May will fly to Strasbourg, France in the coming hours in a last-minute bid to save her foundering Brexit divorce deal before it is voted on again on Tuesday local time (Wednesday morning AEST).

If she fails, lawmakers are expected to force May to seek a delay to Brexit which some fear could see the 2016 decision to leave the bloc reversed. May's office did not confirm the trip.

British Prime Minister Theresa May delivers a speech during her visit in Grimsby, Lincolnshire, Britain March 8, 2019.

If Parliament decides it does not want to leave without a plan then another vote will be held on Thursday to decide if the March 29 deadline for withdrawing from the European Union should be pushed back. The exact vote format was not immediately clear. "There will be no new negotiations".

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald said the vote showed the "absolute disregard for the people of Ireland, for our rights, our economy and the Good Friday Agreement that is at the heart of the Tory Brexit agenda".

The pound, which had risen on hopes the deal would be passed, slumped by more than 1 per cent against the dollar after Cox's assessment, to trade at $1.3108.

Tonight MPs will vote again tomorrow on no deal and then on delaying Brexit on Thursday - votes set to unlock a cascade of consequences including a softer Brexit, a second referendum and not leaving the European Union at all.

Moscovici said "the train has passed two times" and the European Union will not renegotiate the deal before the scheduled Brexit date of March 29.

The ultimate outcome remains unclear, though most diplomats and investors say Brexit will define the United Kingdom's prosperity for generations to come.

Brexit could be reversed if lawmakers reject the government's exit deal, British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt said on Sunday.

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SDLP leader Colum Eastwood insisted "sooner or later, the British Parliament is going to have to support a backstop for Northern Ireland or else support no Brexit at all" to avoid a hard border.

The Daily Mail said that, "to her enormous credit", Theresa May appears to have secured "the guarantees she needed on the Northern Ireland backstop".

At the heart of the dispute is a disagreement over how to manage the border between the British province of Northern Ireland and EU-member Ireland.

"No one is looking to trap anyone anywhere".

Although the 149 margin was reduced from the record 230-vote defeat of the first "meaningful vote" in January, Ms May was left far adrift from a majority with just 17 days to go to the scheduled date of Brexit on March 29.

The temporary tariff guidelines, which would go into place if there is a no-deal Brexit, published by the British government today, include increases to a number of items including beef, lamb, pork, poultry and dairy.

"We will essentially be voting on exactly the same Withdrawal Agreement that we voted on last time and in very simple terms: if you ask the same question you are likely to get pretty much the same answer", said Mark Francois, a pro-Brexit lawmaker in May's Conservative Party.

The Labour Party said she had fallen far short of her promises to parliament.

"We have an opportunity now to leave on March 29 or shortly thereafter and it is very important we grasp that opportunity because there is wind in the sails of people trying to stop Brexit". If they reject that, then they will vote on Thursday on delaying Brexit.

The Sun suggested Mrs May's deal is the only way of "keeping Corbyn's Marxists out of power" and the Tories "may well pay a awful price - and the country with it" if the party does not back the package.

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