London: British Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday made a final push for the UK Parliament to back her Brexit withdrawal deal in a crunch vote after she claimed to have secured “legally binding” changes to the draft rejected by the House of Commons earlier this year.
May called on MPs in the House of Commons ahead of the vote scheduled for around 1900 GMT on Tuesday to get behind her enhanced agreement setting out the UK's exit strategy from the EU or risk going against the will of the majority that voted for Brexit in the June 2016 referendum.
“This is the moment... Back this motion and get the deal done…We cannot serve our country by overturning a democratic decision of the British people,” she said, hours after claiming a breakthrough in negotiations with the EU to secure changes to the controversial Irish backstop to make it more acceptable to all sides of the Commons.
Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn countered that it was the same “bad deal” MPs had rejected in January and that his party would be voting against it again because it risks people’s living standards and jobs.
The clash came soon after UK Attorney-General Geoffrey Cox confirmed that the legal risk from the controversial Irish backstop “remains unchanged”, leading to hard-Brexiteers from within May’s own Conservative Party refusing to back the so-called “improved” divorce arrangement, leaving Britain’s exit from the EU still precariously poised ahead of the March 29 Brexit deadline.
In a last-minute dash to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Monday night, May emerged alongside European Commission President Jean Claude-Juncker to declare that the UK and EU have agreed “legally binding” changes to the controversial Irish backstop clause to ensure any such arrangement would not be permanent.
The move was aimed at addressing the concerns of hard-Brexiteers in her own Conservative Party and the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which provides her government with its majority in the House of Commons.
“MPs were clear that legal changes were needed to the backstop. Today we have secured legal changes. Now is the time to come together to back this improved Brexit deal,” May said at a joint press conference with Juncker.
Brexiteers from within her party and the DUP had refused to comment if they feel the changes she has secured will be enough for them to vote in favour of the deal before they take full legal advice on the changes.
UK's chief legal advisor Attorney General Geoffrey Cox said the extra assurances won by May do "reduce the risk that the UK could be indefinitely and involuntarily detained" in the backstop if talks on the two sides' future relationship broke down due to "bad faith" by the EU.
However, the “legal risk remains unchanged" if no such deal can be reached....