May urges support for motion on 'alternative arrangements' to backstop
Theresa May has thrown her weight behind a parliamentary move to win her more Brexit negotiating power by rallying MPs behind an alternative to the controversial backstop.
Conservative chairman Brandon Lewis announced that Tory MPs will be 'whipped' to support an amendment tabled by senior backbencher Sir Graham Brady in a series of votes tonight.
But the dramatic move was far from guaranteed to deliver a majority for the plan, after it failed to win the support of the influential European Research Group (ERG) of Tory eurosceptics.
The amendment tabled by Sir Graham, chair of the Tory backbench 1922 Committee, states that Parliament would be willing to support the withdrawal agreement reached with the EU, so long as the backstop is replaced with "alternative arrangements" to avoid a hard border.
The Tory grandee said he hoped that Commons backing would give Mrs May "enormous firepower" when she seeks concessions on her Brexit deal.
But ERG chairman Jacob Rees-Mogg said that its members, thought to number at least 60, will not support the scheme.
MPs in the ERG were concerned that the Brady amendment did not spell out what would replace the backstop and did not specify that changes to the text of the withdrawal agreement were required, he said. There was no sign in Brussels of any appetite to reopen talks. European Commission vice-president Jyrki Kateinen said there was "no reason to give any concessions" to the UK and there was "not much room for manoeuvre" on the backstop.