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11 Mar, 2019 22:12

UK has secured ‘legally binding’ way around Brexit backstop with EU – May

UK has secured ‘legally binding’ way around Brexit backstop with EU – May

British PM Theresa May has agreed to a “legally binding” deal with the EU around the Northern Ireland ‘backstop’ to secure Brexit, and will put that to a vote in the Parliament on Tuesday. Talks with EU leaders are ongoing.

During the negotiations on Monday with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Strasbourg, May secured legally binding changes that “strengthen and improve” the original Brexit agreement, her Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington told reporters Monday evening.

British lawmakers have the choice to “vote for this deal or plunge the country into a political crisis,” said Lidington, noting that the EU has made clear this will be “the only deal on the table.”

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Though the talks are continuing, Lidington said that May and Juncker have agreed on two documents, the first of which provides that the EU cannot try to “trap” the UK with the Northern Ireland backstop. If that happens, the document allows for the UK to launch a formal dispute process through independent arbitration.

The draft joint statement outlines commitments by both the UK and the EU to expedite the process of enacting a future relationship, and to replace the backstop with “alternative arrangements” by 2020. That provision will be legally binding, Lidington said.

May’s government considers the backstop issue “critical” to Brexit, which is due to on March 29. Brussels insisted on it remaining a part of the deal as an “insurance” as recently as January, however.

Also on rt.com Irish backstop must remain in May’s deal as insurance, European Parliament's Brexit coordinator says

The backstop has been a point of contention because, under the previously agreed Brexit roadmap, it would leave the UK subject to EU rules regarding the border with Ireland. Restoring a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic could reignite hostilities that had lasted for decades, while reintegrating Ireland as one is not an option for May, whose coalition depends on support from the hardline DUP of Northern Ireland.

May’s Brexit plan was crushed in the Parliament in January, and it remains unclear if lawmakers will approve the changes. If she loses the vote on Tuesday, the Parliament will be asked to vote on a no-deal Brexit and, if that vote fails as well, they’ll be asked for a delay.

The UK has spent nearly three years trying to negotiate a divorce from the EU, following the June 2016 referendum that resulted in the surprise victory of those in favor of Brexit.