The future of Britain’s exit from the European Union hung in the balance Tuesday as lawmakers prepared to vote on Prime Minister Teresa May’s Brexit deal after she won last-minute assurances from the EU.
But, the chances are not looking good for May after her Attorney General warned that Britain could still be trapped in the Irish backstop provision despite the latest amendments.
By Susy Hodges
Prime Minister May faces a day of reckoning with another crunch vote in parliament on her EU withdrawal or Brexit deal.
The last time her Brexit deal was put to the vote in January, lawmakers rejected it by a massive 230 vote margin in the biggest ever defeat for a sitting government in parliament.
May has urged lawmakers to accept her revised deal, saying she had secured last-minute legal changes during her talks with EU leaders in Strasbourg aimed at addressing concern over the contentious Irish backstop provision in her Brexit deal. This is the insurance policy designed to avoid a hard border in Ireland whatever happens and it’s deeply unpopular with pro-Brexit lawmakers and with the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist party which props up May’s minority government.
But just hours away from the vote, May’s chances of winning it were dealt a massive blow when the Attorney General Geoffrey Cox said the Prime Minister’s revised deal had not changed the legal risk of Britain being trapped indefinitely in the Irish backstop if intractable differences arose. He told parliament the Prime Minister’s last-minute amendments to her deal had reduced that risk but warned it could still happen.
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Cox’s legal advice was seen as crucial to winning over the Brexiteers in the ruling conservative party. Earlier the opposition Labour Party said the Prime Minister had secured nothing new during her talks in Strasbourg and said they would vote against her revised deal.
If lawmakers once again reject May’s deal, she has promised them a vote on Wednesday on whether to leave without a deal. If they reject that, then there will a vote on Thursday on whether to ask for a limited delay to Brexit.
All this comes just over two weeks before Britain is due to leave the EU and there is a widespread view that lawmakers will vote to reject her deal despite these 11-hour amendments. As one British newspaper put it, this vote represents May’s last roll of the dice. The outcome of it will not just help determine the future shape of Britain’s relationship with the EU but could also — in the view of some — determine the future of May’s own leadership.