EU parliament won't approve Brexit deal without Irish 'backstop'
Updated 22:33, 24-Jan-2019
The European Parliament's Brexit group said Thursday it would not approve an agreement on Britain's departure from the European Union that did not contain a full "backstop" provision to avoid a hard Irish border.
The statement, issued after a meeting of the Brexit Steering Group, sought to dash any hopes in London that Prime Minister Theresa May could secure a time limit to the commitment of preventing a border on the island of Ireland.
The group, chaired by Guy Verhofstadt, "reiterated that the withdrawal agreement is fair and cannot be re-negotiated. This applies especially to the backstop ... without such an 'all-weather' backstop-insurance, the European Parliament will not give its consent to the withdrawal agreement."
An attendee arrives at a pro-Brexit meeting by the Bruges Group in London, January 23, 2019. /VCG Photo

An attendee arrives at a pro-Brexit meeting by the Bruges Group in London, January 23, 2019. /VCG Photo

While Britain agrees that there should be a seamless border and no need for intrusive checks on goods at the Irish border, the Irish government, backed by the rest of the EU, wants an insurance policy in case future special customs and trade arrangements cannot be agreed after Brexit.
"The EU remains clear, firm and united on this even if the negotiated backstop is not meant to be used," the Brexit Steering Group statement said.
Earlier on Thursday, the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier said that backstop could not be time-limited.
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UK Parliament in a deadlock

Meanwhile, the UK Parliament is seeking to shift control of the process away from government and give parliament the chance to define Brexit. If successful, this could have a profound effect, giving lawmakers who want to block, delay or renegotiate Brexit a possible legal route to do so.
A group of British lawmakers appealed to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on Thursday to back a second referendum on Brexit, saying it is the only way to break the deadlock. They need to get enough support to stage such a vote.
May has ruled out staging a second vote, saying parliament should respect the 2016 referendum when 52 percent of Britain voted to leave the EU. Corbyn also does not support a second referendum but says the option should remain on the table.
Pro-Brexit campaigners stand outside Downing Street in London, Britain January 24, 2019. /VCG Photo

Pro-Brexit campaigners stand outside Downing Street in London, Britain January 24, 2019. /VCG Photo

"The clock is ticking and at this late stage, I appeal to Jeremy Corbyn to do the right thing by the majority of our voters, our supporters and members and back a people's vote," Labour lawmaker Luciana Berger said.
On January 29, the UK Parliament will debate May's proposed next steps as well as alternative plans put forward by lawmakers, including some that seek to delay Britain's March 29 exit by requesting an extension to the two-year Article 50 negotiation period.

Avoid hard Brexit

Despite being tough on May's Brexit deal, the EU does not wish a hard Brexit, thus is preparing to postpone Brexit date, "preferably not beyond the European Parliament elections set for May", Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said Thursday.
Britain knows that the EU is willing to postpone the date on which it will leave the bloc, currently March 29, but "there is an awareness in Great Britain that the European Union is prepared to do everything to avoid a hard Brexit, also prepared if necessary to postpone the withdrawal date, but of course Great Britain must also want that," Kurz said at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Theresa May is also working to secure a deal to ensure a smooth departure from the EU, her spokesman said Thursday. There was no question that leaving with a Brexit deal was in Britain's best interests, she said.
British Union leader Len McCluskey, on the other hand, suggest a 3-month delay on Brexit, if May is serious about getting a Brexit divorce deal through parliament.
(Cover: Activists hold placards at a political rally entitled "Let's Go WTO" hosted by pro-Brexit lobby group Leave Means Leave in London, January 17, 2019. /VCG Photo)
Source(s): Reuters