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Brexit: UK MPs back May's bid to reopen negotiations over Irish backstop


ANI Europe
British lawmakers on Tuesday voted in favour of an amendment that seeks to reopen negotiations with the European Union over the Northern Ireland backstop, an insurance policy to avoid a hard border with Ireland, in case the UK fails to secure a comprehensive Brexit deal with the EU.
According to CNN, MPs voted 317-301 in favour of the amendment, tabled by Conservative MP Sir Graham Brady, that "requires the Northern Ireland backstop to be replaced with alternative arrangements to avoid a hard border; supports leaving the European Union with a deal and would therefore support the Withdrawal Agreement subject to this change."
Some in Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative Party are against the open-ended nature of the backstop, as it could see the UK being tied to a customs union with the EU even after the transitional period ends in 2020.
The UK is set to leave the EU on March 29.
May had urged lawmakers to vote in favour of the amendment in order to allow her to re-open negotiations with the EU for talks for securing a legally binding change in the withdrawal agreement.
However, a spokesperson for the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, said that the UK's Withdrawal Agreement is beyond renegotiation.
"The backstop is part of the Withdrawal Agreement, and the Withdrawal Agreement is not open for renegotiation. The December European Council Conclusions are very clear on this point," the spokesperson said.
His comments came minutes after the Parliament said it "requires the Northern Ireland backstop to be replaced with alternative arrangements" for it to agree to May's deal.
Ireland has also dismissed prospects of reopening negotiations for the withdrawal agreement, saying, "The agreement is a carefully negotiated compromise, which balances the UK position on customs and the single market with avoiding a hard border and protecting the integrity of the EU customs union and single market".
The British Parliament also approved an amendment, tabled by Conservative MP Caroline Spelman and Labour MP Jack Dromey, dismissing the prospects of a no-deal Brexit.
Lawmakers voted 318-310 to approve the amendment in what is a symbolic defeat for the government and for a no-deal Brexit.
Speaking after MPs backed her bid to reopen negotiations with the EU over the Northern Ireland backstops, May said that it was "clear that there is a route that can secure a substantial and sustainable majority in this house for leaving the EU with a deal".
She said that her focus would be shifted to deal with the issues stemming from the backstop, the insurance policy that will avoid a hard border between Ireland (which will remain in the EU) and Northern Ireland after Brexit.
"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 clear what it needs to agree a deal," May said.
Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn said his Labour Party has also agreed to meet May, after weeks of refusing the same and discuss the agreement it wants with the EU.

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First Published: Jan 30 2019 | 4:18 AM IST

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