Will Theresa May’s ‘improved’ Brexit deal be enough for MPs?
Jean-Claude Juncker warns ‘there will be no third chance’ after last-ditch talks
Theresa May says she has secured “legally binding” changes to her Brexit deal to ensure the so-called Irish backstop will not “become permanent”.
MPs will vote on the deal later but Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has already dismissed the changes, saying they are not “anything approaching” what the prime minister had promised.
The new assurances are a “hollow victory” for May, The Guardian says, and Brussels has “conceded next to nothing”. But according to the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg: “Monday morning government blues have been replaced by Tuesday morning nervous hopes” and predicts that the changes “will move some of the Prime Minister's objectors from the ‘no’ column to the ‘yes’”.
The Daily Mail hails the moment as a “critical breakthrough” but Sky News says that the Prime Minister’s “11th-hour dash to Strasbourg” might not be enough to prevent “another humiliating Commons defeat”.
One unnamed cabinet minister says that May is now “back in the races” but Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable said the outcome of the talks showed the Brexit negotiations were in disarray.
A “joint legally binding instrument” on the withdrawal agreement has been agreed, which May said could be used to start a “formal dispute” against the EU if it tried to keep the UK tied into the backstop indefinitely.
Additionally, a “joint statement” commits to replacing the backstop with alternative arrangements by December 2020. Third, a “unilateral declaration” states the UK's position that there is nothing to prevent it from leaving the backstop arrangement if discussions break down.
Following the talks, May said: “Today we have secured legal changes. Now is the time to come together, to back this improved Brexit deal, and to deliver on the instruction of the British people.”
Sitting next to May, Jean-Claude Juncker warned MPs if they do not back the deal on Tuesday night “there will be no third chance” and warned: “It is this deal or Brexit might not happen at all.”
When May's withdrawal agreement was put to MPs in January, it was voted down by an historic margin of 230. If it's rejected again this evening, a further vote will be held tomorrow on whether the UK should leave without a deal.
If that no-deal option is rejected, MPs could get a vote on Thursday on whether to request a delay to Brexit from Brussels.