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Theresa May says Jeremy Corbyn agrees that the Irish border backstop has to go, as she promises she will be ‘battling for Britain’ with Brussels to secure a new Brexit deal
- Prime Minister’s comments came after she met Labour leader on Wednesday
- May: ‘Although Jeremy Corbyn didn’t vote with us, he also believes the potential indefinite nature of the backstop is an issue that needs to be addressed’
- She is due to report back to Parliament on her negotiations with EU on Feb 13
- Wrangling in Commons has seen backbench MPs put forward a range of alternative plans
Theresa May says Jeremy Corbyn agrees with her that the controversial Irish border backstop as set out in her Withdrawal Agreement with the European Union has to change.
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, she said she will be ‘battling for Britain’ when she returns to Brussels to seek a ‘pragmatic’ Brexit deal that can win over both the European Union and her own MPs.
Her comments came after she met the Labour leader on Wednesday.
In the Sunday Telegraph, Mrs May said she was listening to figures from across politics, the trade union movement and business in her quest for a feasible Brexit compromise.
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Theresa May says Jeremy Corbyn agrees with her that the controversial Irish border backstop as set out in her Withdrawal Agreement with the European Union has to change. Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, she said she will be ‘battling for Britain’ when she returns to Brussels to seek a ‘pragmatic’ Brexit deal that can win over both the European Union and her own MPs
She said: ‘It’s why when I return to Brussels I will be battling for Britain and Northern Ireland, I will be armed with a fresh mandate, new ideas and a renewed determination to agree a pragmatic solution that delivers the Brexit the British people voted for, while ensuring there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
‘That is what Parliament instructed me to do on Tuesday night.
‘Although Jeremy Corbyn didn’t vote with us, he also believes the potential indefinite nature of the backstop is an issue that needs to be addressed with Brussels. That is exactly what I’m doing.’
The Prime Minister’s comments came after she met the Labour leader on Wednesday
Last week Mrs May secured Parliament’s backing to go back to Brussels in the hope of hammering out a fresh agreement that does not include the Irish border backstop – which is unacceptable to the DUP and Brexiteer Tories – and which will command a majority in the Commons.
The Prime Minister is due to report back to Parliament on her negotiations with the EU on February 13, with a further series of votes by MPs expected the following day.
Wrangling in the Commons has seen backbench MPs put forward a range of alternative plans to find a way out of the morass.
Mrs May found herself with some rare good news on Sunday after a new opinion poll suggested the Tories had moved into a seven-point lead over Labour.
The Opinium poll for the Observer found that Jeremy Corbyn’s party had fallen from 40% to 34% since the key Commons votes on the mechanics of Brexit took place, falling behind the Tories who went from 37% to 41%.
Public approval of Mr Corbyn’s personal handling of Brexit also fell to a new low of just 16%, from 18% two weeks previously.
The PM is due to report back to Parliament on her negotiations with the EU on February 13, with a further series of votes by MPs expected the following day. Wrangling in the Commons has seen backbench MPs put forward a range of alternative plans to find a way out of the morass
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His disapproval rating is 61% and he has support from little more than four in 10 Labour voters (42%), according to the poll.
But Downing Street denied reports in the Mail on Sunday that Mrs May’s team are planning for a general election on June 6 – the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
Mr Corbyn used a trip to Scotland to call again for a snap election.
Corbyn’s U-turn that saw him agree to meet the PM
Jeremy Corbyn suffered a double humiliation on Tuesday night as MPs roundly rejected his plans to delay Brexit – and he finally had to agree to talks with the Prime Minister.
Fourteen of the Labour leader’s own MPs voted against a proposal – which he had backed just hours earlier – to keep Britain in the EU beyond March 29 if no deal is agreed by the end of the month.
It was one of a string of defeats, with the only vote Mr Corbyn’s side winning being a non-binding expression of will that the UK should not leave without a deal.
And just two weeks after rejecting Theresa May’s invitation to discuss the way forward for Brexit, he performed a U-turn and agreed to see her in Downing Street.
Speaking on a visit to charities in Glasgow, he said that ‘the people who are bearing the brunt of nine years of austerity cannot wait years for a general election’.
His deputy John McDonnell had earlier accused the Prime Minister of trying to get pro-Brexit Labour rebels to ‘sell their votes’ in a ‘dangerous’ bid to win support for her deal.
The shadow chancellor claimed reports Theresa May might offer incentives to pro-Brexit backbenchers was the latest example of what he called the Conservatives’ use of ‘pork barrel’ politics, following its post-election spending deal with the DUP.
Mr McDonnell also said talk of such ‘contractual’ arrangements, first reported in the Times, pledging investment in the constituencies of MPs who back Mrs May’s deal, was ‘dangerous for our democracy’.
On a visit to Stoke-on-Trent on Saturday, he said: ‘I don’t think any MP will sell their votes in that way – that sort of bribery and corruption.’
Whitehall could be overwhelmed by a no-deal Brexit with the Department for Transport (DfT) unable to cope with more than two emergencies at once, according to leaked papers reported on Saturday.
The Times said the Government made the admission in a document seen by its reporters that formed part of a contingency plan called Operation Yellowhammer.
It reportedly states that in the wake of Britain crashing out of the EU without a deal, for months after, the Government may have to engage in a 24/7 emergency approach.
And that priorities in the event of a no-deal will be ‘welfare, health, transport and security of UK citizens at home and abroad, and the economic stability of the UK’.
The 37-page document, which sets out a guide to working in the DfT operations centre, also states that the ‘scale of the operation is potentially enormous’, according to the Times.
What is the Irish border backstop and why do Tory MPs hate it?
The so-called Irish border backstop is one of the most controversial parts of the PM’s Brexit deal. This is what it means:
What is the backstop?
The backstop was invented to meet promises to keep open the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland even if there is no comprehensive UK-EU trade deal.
The divorce deal says it will kick in automatically at the end of the Brexit transition if that deal is not in place.
If effectively keeps the UK in a customs union with the EU and Northern Ireland in both the customs union and single market.
This means many EU laws will keep being imposed on the UK and there can be no new trade deals. It also means regulatory checks on some goods crossing the Irish Sea.
Why have Ireland and the EU demanded it?
Because Britain demanded to leave the EU customs union and single market, the EU said it needed guarantees people and goods circulating inside met EU rules.
This is covered by the Brexit transition, which effectively maintains current rules, and can in theory be done in the comprehensive EU-UK trade deal.
But the EU said there had to be a backstop to cover what happens in any gap between transition and final deal.
Why do critics hate it?
Because Britain cannot decide when to leave the backstop.
Getting out – even if there is a trade deal – can only happen if both sides agree people and goods can freely cross the border.
Brexiteers fear the EU will unreasonably demand the backstop continues so EU law continues to apply in Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland MPs also hate the regulatory border in the Irish Sea, insisting it unreasonably carves up the United Kingdom.
What concessions did Britain get in negotiating it?
During the negotiations, Britain persuaded Brussels the backstop should apply to the whole UK and not just Northern Ireland. Importantly, this prevents a customs border down the Irish Sea – even if some goods still need to be checked.
The Government said this means Britain gets many of the benefits of EU membership after transition without all of the commitments – meaning Brussels will be eager to end the backstop.
It also got promises the EU will act in ‘good faith’ during the future trade talks and use its ‘best endeavours’ to finalise a deal – promises it says can be enforced in court.
What did the legal advice say about it?
Attorney General Geoffrey Cox said even with the EU promises, if a trade deal cannot be reached the backstop could last forever.
This would leave Britain stuck in a Brexit limbo, living under EU rules it had no say in writing and no way to unilaterally end it.
Tuesday night’s seven amendments: What did MPs vote on and what were the results?
MPs faced a choice of seven Plan Bs for Brexit in the Commons on Tuesday night as the Government scrambles for a way forward on Brexit.
Sir Graham Brady’s amendment demanding changes to the backstop in the divorce deal won the support of the House of Commons after it was endorsed by Theresa May.
The hope is that securing a majority for the demand will demonstrate to Brussels that the deal can pass if the backstop is legally time limited.
Remain supporters backed a plan from Yvette Cooper to block no deal by delaying Brexit if there is not an agreement by February 26, but the amendment was rejected.
The House also backed an amendment from Caroline Spelman which rejected a no-deal Brexit but without a clear plan for avoiding one.
Other amendments from Tory Dominic Grieve Labour’s Rachel Reeves, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and SNP leader Ian Blackford were rejected.
SIR GRAHAM BRADY’S PLAN TO FIX THE BACKSTOP BY DEMANDING CHANGES FROM THE EU – BACKED BY MAY
WHAT IT DOES: Proposes replacing the Northern Ireland backstop with ‘alternative arrangements’ to avoid a hard border. Also supports leaving with a deal.
WHOSE PLAN? Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee.
HOW IT WORKS: Allows Mrs May to go to Brussels and say the EU must make concessions on the backstop or get rid of it.
DID IT SUCCEED? Yes – MPs backed the plan by 317 votes to 301.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT? Mrs May will go to Brussels and say changing the backstop would save her deal.
YVETTE COOPER’S PLAN TO DELAY BREXIT IF THERE IS NOT A DEAL
WHAT IT DOES: Forces ministers to extend Article 50 beyond March 29 to stop No Deal.
WHOSE PLAN? Labour’s Yvette Cooper, former Tory ministers Nick Boles and Sir Oliver Letwin.
HOW IT WORKS: Ministers lose the power to decide what is debated on February 5, which passes to backbench MPs. Miss Cooper proposes a law forcing Mrs May to ask for a delay on Brexit if No Deal is agreed by February 26.
DID IT SUCCEED? No – MPs rejected the plan by 321 votes to 298.
WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED NEXT? Mrs May would have lost control of Brexit with No Deal off the table.
DOMINIC GRIEVE’S PLAN TO HAND POWER TO MPS
WHAT IT DOES: Give control over Parliamentary business to MPs.
WHOSE PLAN? Dominic Grieve QC, former attorney general and ardent Remainer, and MPs who want a second referendum.
HOW IT WORKS: Government loses power over the Commons every Tuesday from February 12 to March 26 so backbench MPs could vote on Brexit. Could delay Article 50 or change the deal to include a customs union or second referendum.
DID IT SUCCEED? No – MPs rejected the plan by 321 votes to 301.
WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED NEXT? A second referendum would have been the most likely outcome.
DAME CAROLINE SPELMAN’S PLAN TO RULE OUT NO DEAL
WHAT IT DOES: Stops the UK leaving without a deal.
WHOSE PLAN: Former Tory Cabinet minister Caroline Spelman and Labour MP Jack Dromey.
HOW IT WORKS: Rejects No Deal.
DID IT SUCCEED? Yes – MPs backed the plan by 318 votes to 310.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT? Mrs May’s main bargaining chip is weakened but there is no means of enforcing the vote.
RACHEL REEVES’ PLAN TO DELAY BREXIT IF THERE IS NO DEAL
WHAT IT DOES: Just like the Cooper plan, this demands the Government ask for an extension to Article 50 if there is no deal by February 26 – but does so only in political terms without trying to change the law.
WHOSE PLAN: Labour MP Rachel Reeves
HOW IT WORKS: Makes a political statement to put pressure on the Government.
DID IT SUCCEED? No – MPs rejected the plan by 322 votes to 290.
WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED NEXT? Mrs May’s main bargaining chip would have been limited by a new deadline – hampering her hopes of changing the deal.
JEREMY CORBYN’S PLAN TO FUDGE THE VOTE BY DEMANDING CHANGE BUT HINTING AT A REFERENDUM
WHAT IT DOES: Demands changes to the deal and hints at a second referendum.
WHOSE PLAN? Corbyn, Labour frontbench.
HOW IT WORKS: Ministers must let Parliament discuss No Deal, and proposes staying in a permanent customs union. If that fails, it suggests a second referendum.
DID IT SUCCEED? No – MPs rejected the plan by 327 votes to 296.
WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED NEXT? A second referendum would become the most likely outcome of Brexit.
IAN BLACKFORD’S PLAN TO MAKE A POINT ABOUT SCOTLAND
WHAT IT DOES: Notes that the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and Commons all voted against the deal and Scotland voted Remain
WHOSE PLAN? SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford
HOW IT WORKS: Makes a political declaration about Scotland’s right to determine its own future.
DID IT SUCCEED? No – MPs rejected the plan by 327 votes to 39.
WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED NEXT? Nothing.
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