Theresa May will demand EU re-opens Brexit deal ahead of fresh 'meaningful vote' for MPs

Posted On: 
29th January 2019

Theresa May is to demand the EU re-opens the Brexit deal she has spent the past two years negotiating in a last-ditch bid to get MPs to back it.

Theresa May faces an uphill battle with Brussels
PA Images

In a stunning U-turn, the Prime Minister told her Cabinet this morning that winning legal changes on the controversial Northern Irish backstop plan will  mean “re-opening the Withdrawal Agreement”, a Downing Street spokesman said.

Mrs May has previously insisted that the Withdrawal Agreement, which she struck with Brussels after painstaking talks, could not be re-negotiated.

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MPs rejected the deal by a record-breaking 230 votes earlier this month, forcing the Prime Minister's re-think.

She has urged Tory MPs to tonight back an amendment in the name of Sir Graham Brady seeking to scrap the so-called Irish backstop, which is contained in the Withdrawal Agreement and is aimed at avoiding a hard border in Ireland.

Following this morning's Cabinet meeting, Mrs May's spokesman said: “The Prime Minister said that in order to win the support of the House of Commons, legal changes to the backstop will be required.

“That will mean re-opening the Withdrawal Agreement.”

Meanwhile, pro-EU ministers have demanded assurances that there will be a future vote on delaying the Brexit process in the coming weeks if no deal is reached.

Business minister Richard Harrington has vowed to vote for another amendment expected to be called today that seeks to delay the Article 50 process unless the PM issues such a guarantee.

The Downing Street spokesman said: “The Prime Minister also reiterated that today will not be the last chance for Parliament to express a view on the Brexit process.

“She said the Government will bring back the ‘meaningful vote’ as soon as possible. If the House did not support that deal then just as before we would table an amendable motion for debate the next day.

“If we have not brought a revised deal back by 13 February we will make a statement and again table an amendable motion for debate the next day.”

He also hinted that the Government hopes to get an amended Withdrawal Agreement ratified by the European Council before a Commons vote by the 13 February deadline.

Mrs May will speak to EU leaders by phone today and could travel to meet them later in the week. 

The backstop plan would keep the UK and a customs union with the EU to ensure the Northern Ireland border remains open in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

But critics argue it would leave Britain indefinitely tied to EU rules with no say over their operation, and could end up dividing the Union.