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WATCH Cabinet minister admits Theresa May could ditch promise to re-open Brexit deal

WATCH Cabinet minister admits Theresa May could ditch promise to re-open Brexit deal

Emilio Casalicchio

3 min read

A Cabinet minister has risked angering anti-EU Tory MPs by admitting Theresa May might have to ditch a promise to re-open her Brexit deal.


The Prime Minister said she would fight to secure changes to the hated Northern Ireland backstop plan and get them written into the 500-page Withdrawal Agreement.

But Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright said the “mechanism” for securing those changes was unimportant - as he indicated a legal letter or add-on to the deal would be enough.

MPs sent Mrs May back to Brussels last month when they voted overwhelmingly to reject her Brexit blueprint. They also later voted for the backstop plan to be junked.

Pro-Brexit Tories in the hardcore European Research Group have insisted the only acceptable change will be to the Withdrawal Agreement itself, although the group is split on the issue.

Deputy chair Steve Baker said in WhatsApp messages leaked to the Sunday Times that anything less than removing the backstop would see the Tories “grind towards a party split”.

But Mr Wright told the BBC Andrew Marr Show: “I don’t think it’s the mechanism that matters, it’s the objective. 

"If you can get to a place where the potential longevity of the backstop, the potential that the backstop lasts forever can be adequately dealt with, that’s what we’re all seeking to do.

“That’s what Parliament has been very clear that it wants, it will back this deal if we can do something about the backstop.”

He added: “If there are other ways of doing it that are just as effective that perhaps we haven’t yet explored then we will do that too.”

GOVERNMENT 'SEEMED CLEAR'

Mr Baker told PoliticsHome: "The Government had seemed to be clear in its intent.

"Over the next few days we will need to compare what has been said this weekend with what we thought had been promised."

The backstop would see the UK remain closely tied to EU trade rules to ensure the Northern Ireland border remains open if no agreement is in place  by the end of the Brexit transition period in December 2021.

Critics argue it could leave the UK subject to EU rules indefinitely with no way out and could lead to the breakup of the UK.

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox will set out what changes he thinks are needed to the backstop in a speech on Tuesday, while Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay will hold talks with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier tomorrow.

'HISTORY WILL JUDGE US'

Last night Mrs May urged her warring Tory MPs to unite and warned them “history will judge us all” if the party makes a mess of Brexit.

In a letter to the 317 Conservative representatives in Parliament, she called on critics of her deal with the EU to “sacrifice if necessary our own personal preferences” in order to prevent a no-deal Brexit or no Brexit at all.

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