Muscat: British Prime Minister Theresa May has once again failed to secure enough votes for her deal to see Britain exit the European Union, for the second time in three months.
Her deal was defeated by 391 votes to 242, a margin of 149. The last time, she failed when 432 MPs voted against her motion, with only 202 MPs deciding in favour.
Formally called Article 50, the triggering of which enables a European nation to leave the EU, Brexit is supposed to take place on Friday, 29 March, 2019, following a referendum on 23 June 2016, when 51.9 percent of British voters chose to leave the EU.
May has since gone back to request more concessions from the EU, in addition to campaigning for more supporters to back her Brexit deal. One of the key decisions over May’s vote would centre on the Northern Ireland backstop, which would continue to be part of the UK, but enjoy the same customs and protections provided to the rest of the EU, so as to not jeopardise the UK’s border with the Republic of Ireland.
Four points of order were to be discussed in the House of Commons this evening, with regards to the UK withdrawing from the EU. These discussed the withdrawal of the UK from the EU, in addition to governing the framework of future political agreements between the UK and the European Union.
In addition, the Northern Ireland backstop was to be discussed, with the UK insisting that the backstop could be allegedly used by companies to circumvent UK laws and set up their offices in Northern Ireland. The UK intends to seek assurances from the EU that the backstop is only temporary, with a permanent replacement for it being found by December 2020. In addition, the framework which discussed how the UK and the EU would continue to interact in future was also to be discussed.
However, in the end, as Keir Starmer, Labour MP for Holborn and St Pancras, and the Shadow Secretary of State for Brexit said, “the Attorney General confirms that there have been no significant changes to the Withdrawal Agreement despite the legal documents that were agreed last night. The Government’s strategy is now in tatters.”
May earlier met with Jean Claude Juncker, the President of the European Council to request more concessions for Britain from the EU.
“Last November, after two years of hard-fought negotiations, I agreed a Brexit deal with the EU that I passionately believed delivers on the decision taken by the British people to leave the European Union,” said PM May, after her meeting with Jean-Claude Juncker. “Over the last four months, I have made the case for that deal in Westminster and across the UK. I stand by what that deal achieves for my country. The deal honours the referendum result, and is good for both the UK and the EU. But there was a clear concern in parliament over one issue in particular: the Northern Ireland backstop.
She added: “Having an insurance policy to guarantee that there will never be a hard border in Northern Ireland is absolutely right. The deal that MPs voted on in January was not strong enough in making that clear, and legally binding changes were needed to set that right. Today, we have agreed them. Now is the time to come together, to back this improved Brexit deal, and to deliver on the instruction of the British people.”
During the meeting, Luxembourger Juncker reiterated that this was a take it or leave it moment for the UK, with Parliament having already been given a second chance to decide which way they wanted to vote.
“The Prime minister and I have agreed on a joint, legally binding instrument relating to the Withdrawal Agreement,” said Juncker. “This instrument provides meaningful clarifications and legal guarantees on the nature of the backstop. The backstop is an insurance policy, nothing more, nothing less. The intention is not for it to be used, like in every insurance policy, and if it were ever to be used, it will never a threat, if either side were to act in bad faith to use illegal ways for the other party to exit.
“The instrument which sets out these details has legal force, will fully respect the guidelines that the European Council has unanimously agreed,” he added. “It complements the withdrawal agreement without reopening it. In politics, you sometimes get a second chance. It is what we do with this second chance that counts, because there will be no third chance. There will be no further interpretations, and no further assurances on the reassurances, if the Meaningful Vote fails.”
“It is this deal, or that Brexit might not happen at all. Faced with this stark reality, the Members of the House of Commons have a deep responsibility and a fundamental choice to make,” said the President of the European Commission. “If the Withdrawal Agreement gets the backing of the house, the European Union is ready to immediately begin preparations on our future relationship. The European Commission’s negotiation team is in place, our tireless and extremely skilled chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, will be at the head of this team. We are ready.”