Theresa May facing Brexit vote defeat as UK rejects EU offer to break deadlock

Posted On: 
9th March 2019

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay has launched a bitter attack on Michael Barnier as talks between the UK and EU remained deadlocked.

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Credit: 
Foreign and Commonwealth Office

The Cabinet minister accused the EU's chief negotiator of trying to "re-run old arguments" after he tabled presh proposals to break the impasse.

Under the Brussels plan, Britain would have the ability to unilaterally quit the backstop arrangement designed to avoid a hard border in Ireland.

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But Northern Ireland would remain within the EU's customs regime - something which has already been rejected by the Government earlier in the negotiations.

The latest row comes just three days before MPs will be asked to vote on Theresa May's deal and dramatically increases the chances of another devastating defeat for the Prime Minister.

Mr Barclay tweeted: "With a very real deadline looming, now is not the time to rerun old arguments. The UK has put forward clear new proposals. We now need to agree a balanced solution that can work for both sides."

Meanwhile, DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds dismissed Mr Barnier's plan as "neither ealistic nor sensible". 

He said: "It disrespects the constitutional and economic integrity of the United Kingdom. This is an attempt to get ahead of a possible blame game and appear positive when in reality it is going backwards to something rejected a year ago. 

"As the Prime Minister has said, ‘no United Kingdom Prime Minister” could sign up to an arrangement which annexes Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom.  

"Whilst the European Union has spoken often about their value of the peace process in Northern Ireland, this proposal demonstrates that they have a one-sided approach and a lack of understanding about the divisions in Northern Ireland.

"Just as nationalists and republicans oppose a new north-south border, unionists oppose any new east-west border which would place a new barrier between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.

"We need to work for a sensible deal which can work for everyone in Northern Ireland.  It is possible but there must be less intransigence in Brussels."

The bust-up came just hours after Theresa May called on the EU to make concessions which would allow her deal to be passed by MPs on Tuesday.

That led to Mr Barnier saying he was not interested in a "blame game" with the UK.

Meanwhile, Theresa May has been warned that she could lose her ability to govern if MPs back a bid to delay Brexit.

A leaked memo seen by the Telegraph also claims the UK could be plunged into "a full-blown constitutional crisis" if the move by Labour MP Yvette Cooper and Tory backbenchers Oliver Letwin and Nick Boles is successful.

Under an amendment due to be voted on next week, the trio intend to publish a bill which could give the House of Commons control over the Brexit process, rather than the Government.

But the memo says: "Once passed, the Government would have no option but to advise the Queen to give Royal Assent.

"The Government would have no control of the Chamber. It would have lost its ability to govern. A cross-party majority in the House would effectively have seized control of Brexit policy and would be directing legally binding outcomes."