Belfast Telegraph

May to appeal for more time to secure backstop changes

Prime Minister Theresa May (Clodagh Kilcoyne/PA)
Prime Minister Theresa May (Clodagh Kilcoyne/PA)

Prime Minister Theresa May is set to ask MPs for more time to negotiate changes to the Irish border backstop with EU leaders.

The BBC has reported that Mrs May will offer MPs another vote on amendments to her Brexit withdrawal deal if an agreement has not been reached by the end of February.

MPs voted to replace the controversial backstop with "alternative arrangements" in a vote on amendments to the PM's Brexit deal last month.

The backstop aims to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland has been a constant sticking point in Brexit negotiations with Tory Brexiteers and the DUP rejecting the plan.

The EU and the Irish Government have insisted that the backstop is the best way of guaranteeing there will be no hard border in Ireland.

The PM is due to address the House of Commons this week after returning from negotiations with EU leaders in Brussels.

If no agreement on changes to the backstop are reached by Wednesday Mrs May is set to ask for more time for negotiations and will table a motion for debate.

MPs would then debate the motion and any new amendments on Thursday.

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer has said Labour will use a Commons amendment to require the Prime Minister to hold another “meaningful vote” on her deal by February 26.

The move is in response to fears that Mrs May is engaged in a “cynical” attempt to run down the clock before the Brexit deadline in order to leave MPs with a stark choice of accepting her deal or crashing out of the European Union without any agreement.

After talks with Brussels this week Mrs May said that she was determined to deliver Brexit on time ahead of the March 29 deadline. If an agreement is not reached in time the UK will leave the EU with no-deal.

Mrs May described discussions with EU leaders in Brussels as “robust but constructive” and insisted she was determined to “negotiate hard” over the coming days to secure legally-binding changes to the Agreement which will render it acceptable to Parliament.

However European Council president Donald Tusk said there was “no breakthrough in sight”.

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