Belfast Telegraph

MPs vow to support May's Brexit deal if Irish border backstop is replaced

Prime Minister Theresa May addressing the House of Commons. Credit: UK Parliament/Mark Duffy/PA Wire
Prime Minister Theresa May addressing the House of Commons. Credit: UK Parliament/Mark Duffy/PA Wire

MPs have voted to support Prime Minister Theresa May's withdrawal agreement if the controversial Irish border backstop is replaced with an alternative plan.

MPs backed the amendment tabled by Conservative MP Sir Graham Brady by a vote of 317-301. It passed with a majority of 16, including support from the DUP's 10 MPs.

The backstop was intended to ensure there would be no hard border established on the island of Ireland after Brexit.

MPs also supported an amendment that rejected leaving the EU without a deal.

Earlier on Tuesday Mrs May called on MPs to support the vote to allow her to return to Brussels to reopen negotiations on the Brexit withdrawal deal.

She has now backed calls for the Irish backstop, which ensures no return to a hard border, be dumped in favour of undefined “alternative arrangements”.

Following the result, Mrs May said she now had a mandate to take back for further negotiations with the EU.

She said: "Tonight a majority of members have said they would support a deal with changes to the backstop combined with measures to address concerns over Parliament's role in the negotiation of the future relationship and commitments on workers' rights in law where need be.

"It's now clear there is a route that can secure a substantial and sustainable majority in this House for leaving the EU with a deal.

"We will now take this mandate forward and seek to obtain legally binding changes to the Withdrawal Agreement that deal with concerns on the backstop while guaranteeing no return to a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland."

However, President of the European Council Donald Tusk has said that the withdrawal deal is "not open for re-negotiation".

Speaking after the vote he said Mrs May's deal "remains the best and only way to ensure an orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union".

He did say that the EU would be open to looking at the political declaration between the UK and EU again, and that the EU would consider an extension to Brexit, with the UK set to leave on March 29.

"We will continue our preparations for all outcomes, including a no-deal scenario," President Tusk said.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said because the amendment ruling out a no-deal Brexit had passed he was now willing to meet Mrs May for talks on the Brexit next steps.

The Labour leader said: "Now that the House has voted emphatically to reject the no deal option the Prime Minister was supporting could I say we are now prepared to meet her to put forward the points of view from the Labour Party of the kind of deal we want from the European Union.

"To protect jobs, to protect livings standards, and to protect rights and conditions in this country."

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