Belfast Telegraph

MPs to vote on EU deal but Brexit will still proceed

By Arj Singh and Jon Vale

MPs will be given a take it or leave it vote on any Brexit deal covering citizens rights, the so-called divorce bill and a transition period, David Davis has announced.

The Brexit Secretary said any withdrawal agreement the Government reaches with the EU will only hold if MPs and peers approve a new piece of legislation to put it into British law.

But he also confirmed that if the Withdrawal Agreement and Implementation Bill is voted down by MPs, the UK will still leave the EU on March 29, 2019, without a deal.

The move was seen as an attempted concession to Tory rebels ahead of votes this week on the separate EU (Withdrawal) Bill, also known as the repeal bill, with the Government facing potential defeat on plans to guarantee MPs a "meaningful vote" on the deal.

But it triggered an immediate backlash from potential Tory rebels. Heidi Allen said Mr Davis's attempt at a concession was "pointless" as the Government is trying to amend the Withdrawal Bill to say Britain's membership of the EU will formally end at 11pm GMT on March 29, 2019.

Reacting to the Brexit Secretary's announcement, Ms Allen tweeted: "Pointless if we have enshrined a drop dead date in the Bill, & get a deal at 11th hour! There'd be no time! And also offers no safeguard if no deal is reached. Unacceptable."

In a House of Commons statement, Mr Davis announced: "This agreement will only hold if Parliament approves it."

Meanwhile, Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney has hit out at the UK's handling of Brexit talks on the Irish border.

He said London should not be drawing "red lines" and the DUP, whose 10 MPs are shoring up the Conservative government - should not have a "veto" over Brexit policy.

"Anybody who tells me that something can't be done because the DUP won't accept it - I don't accept that," Mr Coveney said.

"No one party here should have a veto on anything, in my view. The issues are far too important for that."

He added: "Who knows, in a number of years' time, the DUP might not be in that position at all."

Mr Coveney repeated his desire - echoed in an EU working paper last week - for the UK to commit to maintaining EU customs and regulatory standards in Northern Ireland after Brexit.

Mr Coveney also said Britain's position - that border checks in Northern Ireland can be avoided once it exits the EU's customs and regulatory systems - was not "credible".

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