Theresa May says MPs could get a veto over Brexit backstop in bid to save deal

Posted On: 
6th December 2018

Theresa May today said MPs could get a veto over whether the UK enters the controversial Brexit backstop she agreed with Brussels.

Theresa May made the comments on the Today programme this morning
PA Images

The Prime Minister said there will be a “choice to be made” if negotiations on a future trade deal stutter and Britain is not ready to leave by the final deadline of December 2020.

She all-but confirmed the offer in a last-ditch bid to win support from MPs for her Brexit deal, which is almost certain to be voted down when it comes before the Commons on Tuesday.

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But she also refused to rule out delaying the vote in a bid to buy more time to turn the tide of opposition to her controversial agreement.

More than 100 Tory MPs have joined opposition parties and the DUP - who prop up her minority government - in vowing to vote down the deal when it reaches parliament.

The most controversial part of the deal is the backstop plan to keep the UK in a customs union with the EU if it looks like the country could crash out of the bloc without any future trade plans.

The backstop would ensure the Northern Irish border remains open, but it would also mean some regulatory differences between the province and the rest of the UK, and would need agreement from the EU to end it.

But Mrs May today insisted there would be a choice over whether to engage the backstop or extend the Brexit transition period - and made clear that choice could be handed over to MPs.

“The backstop is talked about as if it’s automatic. Actually it is not automatic - there is a choice,” she told the Today programme on Radio 4.

“If we do need [further negotiations] there is a choice to be made and I am looking at the question of the role of parliament in that choice and then what would happen thereafter.”

Asked about reports that Downing Street could try to delay the vote on the deal in parliament next week, Mrs May would only say she was “leading up to a vote on Tuesday”.

The PM is understood to have been discussing the backstop veto plan in meetings with small groups of potential rebels in a bid to persuade them to change their minds.

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.

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."