In a speech yesterday, Prime Minister Theresa May announced that the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, which MPs will vote on in June, will represent “a new Brexit deal,” which would make a “ten-point offer to everyone in Parliament who wants to deliver the result of the referendum.” The deal includes a commitment to seek to replace the backstop with “alternative arrangements” by December 2020, and a promise that Great Britain would remain aligned with Northern Ireland in customs legislation if the backstop came into force. May also promised that the Bill would include a requirement for a parliamentary vote on whether the deal should be subject to a referendum. Other provisions include allowing MPs to choose “between the Government’s proposal and a compromise option” on customs; a parliamentary say on both the negotiating objectives and the outcome of the future relationship; and a new workers’ rights bill which would guarantee that rights will be “no less favourable” in the UK than in the EU. May further added that if the Bill passed, she would seek changes to the Political Declaration on the future UK-EU relationship to reflect the new provisions. The speech came after the Cabinet agreed on the Prime Minister’s plan for the Bill.
This comes as several Conservative MPs who voted for the Withdrawal Agreement on 29 March indicated that they might not be prepared to support the Bill. The chairman of the European Research Group, Jacob Rees-Mogg, said, “The reason for voting for it on the third go was so that we would leave broadly on time… Mrs May’s deal is a very bad deal so, as we have already delayed, it is hard to see any point in having a Bill which fails to avoid the European elections, fails to get us out on time, fails to get the process going in the way that might have worked with a new leader coming in.” According to BuzzFeed News, a further 30 Conservative MPs who voted for the deal on the 29th March have indicated they will vote against the Bill, including former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and former Brexit Secretaries David Davis and Dominic Raab.
Reacting to May’s speech, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP)’s Deputy Leader, Nigel Dodds, said that the “fundamental flaws of the draft treaty remain,” adding, “Many of the proposals on the backstop serve as an attempt through domestic law to mitigate a bad deal whereas the focus should be on getting a better deal.”
Elsewhere, May wrote a letter yesterday to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, saying, “I have shown today that I am willing to compromise to deliver Brexit for the British people. The Withdrawal Agreement is our last chance to do so,” adding, “I ask you to compromise too so that we can deliver what both our parties promised in our manifestos and restore faith in our politics.” However, Corbyn yesterday said that Labour cannot support the Withdrawal Agreement Bill as “it is basically a rehash of what was discussed before and it does not make fundamental moves on market alignment or protection of rights.”
May will give a statement in the House of Commons on her plans for the Bill this afternoon. Elsewhere, the 1922 Committee of Conservative MPs holds its weekly meeting today. The Executive Secretary of the Committee, Nigel Evans, told the Sun yesterday, “I will be asking my colleagues tomorrow to agree to a rule change so we can hold an immediate confidence vote if Theresa [May] is not prepared to stand down now.”
Open Europe’s David Shiels spoke about the parliamentary impasse on France 24 yesterday, saying, “I think the Conservative party will be reluctant to see a General election and most likely there will be a leadership election so a new leader can take over and then go forward… The process of electing a new leader might however be so divisive that some MPs might leave the party.”
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