Theresa May could back 'parliamentary lock' giving MPs a veto on Northern Ireland backstop

Posted On: 
5th December 2018

MPs could be given a vote on whether Parliament should have a veto on whether the UK enters the backstop deal designed to prevent a hard border in Ireland.

Theresa May is meeting with small groups of Tory MPs to urge them to back her Brexit deal.
Credit: 
PA Images

The idea has been discussed during conversations Theresa May is having with Tory MPs ahead of next week's vote on her Brexit deal.

The Prime Minister is on course for a humiliating defeat after more than 100 Conservative backbenchers signalled they are ready to vote down the agreement.

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Mrs May is meeting with small groups of potential rebels in a bid to persuade them to change their minds.

One of the suggestions which has been floated is a government-backed amendment making clear that MPs will have to vote for the backstop - which would keep the UK locked in a customs union with the EU indefinitely - to be implemented.

Downing Street hope that could be enough to persuade some Brexiteer rebels to ultimately give their support to her deal.

However, it is likely to provoke anger in Brussels because the backstop arrangement is a key component of the withdrawal agreement, meaning the UK would be breaking international law if it reneged on it.

Asked whether it was being considered, a spokesman for Mrs May said: "I’ll just remind you of what the PM said in her speech to the House of Commons yesterday: ‘On the backstop I know there are members of this House who remain concerned. I have listened to those concerns. I want us to consider how we could go further and I will be continuing to meet colleagues to find an acceptable solution’.”

He added: “I can’t give you any other indication beyond that on amendments or otherwise. She is obviously meeting colleagues and talking to them ahead of the vote."

However, a Number 10 source stressed that Parliament is "sovereign" and that MPs already have the power to block the backstop if they wish.

Former Brexit minister Steve Baker, a fierce critic of Mrs May's deal, said the tactic would not work.

He told MailOnline: "It is silly and few are falling for it."

Meanwhile, Downing Street has also dismissed suggestions that the two-year Article 50 process could be extended if the Prime Minister's deal is voted down.

It has been reported that the EU could make the offer to give more time for further negotiations or no-deal preparations, but a spokesman for Mrs May said: "She has been clear on a number of occasions that we won't be extending Article 50. She is very clear that that we will will be leaving the EU on 29 March next year."