Brexit hangs in balance as parliament to vote on May's tweaked deal
Updated 21:59, 12-Mar-2019
CGTN

The future of Britain's exit from the European Union hung in the balance Tuesday as lawmakers prepared to vote on a divorce deal after Prime Minister Theresa May won last-minute assurances from the European Union.

An influential pro-Brexit faction of lawmakers in May's Conservatives said Tuesday it would not be voting for her Brexit deal as the assurances received from the EU did not meet the tests the government set itself.

"In the light of our own legal analysis and others we do not recommend accepting the government's motion today," William Cash, a senior pro-Brexit Conservative lawmaker said in a statement.

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The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) which props up Theresa May's minority government in parliament also said no to May's deal, said a DUP source Tuesday, adding that "they cannot see how it can back the prime minister's Brexit deal in a vote the PM's deal in the Commons tonight after reading Attorney General Geoffrey Cox's legal advice."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, on the other hand, said Tuesday that the latest EU offer on Brexit was "clear and far-reaching," hours before the British parliament was set to vote on it. "Today is an important day," Merkel said. "I think that the 27 member states... have made clear and far-reaching proposals that take into account the concerns of Great Britain and to find answers for them."

 An anti Brexit protester stands with flags outside the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London, Britain, March 11, 2019. /VCG Photo

 An anti Brexit protester stands with flags outside the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London, Britain, March 11, 2019. /VCG Photo

May rushed to Strasbourg on Monday for last-minute talks with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in a bid to salvage the Brexit deal. The two sides then announced a three-part package of legally-binding changes to the old deal.

Regarding the last-minute new agreements, Cox said earlier that it "reduces the risk" of Britain being "indefinitely and involuntarily" held in the so-called Irish border backstop but "the legal risk remains unchanged."

Britain's Attorney General Geoffrey Cox leaves after the weekly cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street in London, March 12, 2019. /VCG Photo

Britain's Attorney General Geoffrey Cox leaves after the weekly cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street in London, March 12, 2019. /VCG Photo

"The legal risk remains unchanged that if through no such demonstrable failure of either party, but simply because of intractable differences, that situation does arise, the United Kingdom would have, at least while the fundamental circumstances remained the same, no internationally lawful means of exiting the protocol's arrangements, save by agreement," he said.

Irish PM: 'Reassurance' but no changes to backstop

Speaking of the "legally binding changes" the UK agreed with the EU, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said earlier Tuesday that Britain had been offered "reassurance and guarantees" over the Brexit deal as MPs in London prepare to vote Tuesday on whether to accept the withdrawal agreement, but denied that the concessions brokered alterations to the so-called Irish backstop.

"The further texts agreed yesterday provide additional clarity, reassurance and guarantees sought by some to eliminate doubt or fears, however unreal, that the goal of some was to trap the UK indefinitely in the backstop," said Varadkar.

British Prime Minister Theresa May (R) and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar hold bilateral talks during the first Arab-European Summit, Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, February 25, 2019. /VCG Photo 

British Prime Minister Theresa May (R) and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar hold bilateral talks during the first Arab-European Summit, Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, February 25, 2019. /VCG Photo 

"It is not. These doubts and fears can now be put to bed." Varadkar said the legal instrument agreed in Strasbourg "does not call into question that the backstop will apply unless and until better arrangements are agreed."

"We now need to see the withdrawal agreement ratified by Westminster and by the European Parliament without further delay, so that we can get on with the important work of building the closest possible relationship between the EU and the UK, and between the UK and Ireland, post Brexit," Varadkar stressed.

(Cover: Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street before heading to the Houses of Parliament to open the debate on the second meaningful vote on the government's Brexit deal in central London, March 12, 2019. /VCG Photo)

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Source(s): AFP