- Theresa May has abandoned cross-party talks on Brexit with opposition parties.
- The prime minister blamed Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in talks with her Cabinet on Sunday.
- She will now instead push ahead with a plan to again demand concessions from the EU.
- The prime minister will make a statement and motion setting out her Brexit plan B this afternoon.
- The motion faces multiple amendments from MPs designed to allow Parliament to take control of the Brexit process.
LONDON – Theresa May has rejected calls to compromise with opposition parties on Brexit and will instead press ahead with a plan to return once again to Brussels to demand new concessions from the European Union.
The prime minister has refused demands from those, including her chief of staff Gavin Barwell, to soften her position on issues such as the customs union in order to win over votes from the Labour Party for her deal.
She told her Cabinet on Sunday that she will instead demand concessions from the EU on the controversial Northern Ireland backstop, which is designed to keep the the UK tied to EU customs and trade rules and avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland if talks fail before the end of the Brexit transition period.
The prime minister is reportedly seeking a so-called sunset-clause on the backstop after which it would cease to have any effect.
The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier rejected this on Monday, telling RTE that the current deal agreed with the prime minister was “the best deal possible.”
“It’s now for the UK leaders to build this stable and political majority for a deal. We are waiting for the next steps, and are ready to work again on the political declaration,” he said.
The prime minister will set out her plan in a statement and motion to the House of Commons on Monday afternoon.
The plan, which has already been rejected multiple times by the EU and Ireland, would need to be backed in principle by the House of Commons in a vote at the end of this month, before being negotiated with the EU and then voted on again by the UK Parliament next month.
May wants the EU to give the UK legally-binding guarantees that the backstop would be a temporary measure. Pro-Brexit MPs want this to come in the form a fixed end date.
However, MPs from across the House are poised to force May to think again, with multiple amendments planned to her motion this afternoon which are designed to take control of the process from the prime minister.
Among the amendments are plans to force the prime minister to extend the two-year Article 50 process that will take the UK out of the EU on March 29, and a push to hand control of the entire process to backbench MPs.
The amendments will be selected by the House of Commons speaker John Bercow and then put to a vote by MPs on January 29.
May has blamed Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for the breakdown in the talks with opposition parties after he refused to meet with the prime minister until she rules out the possibility of a no-deal Brexit with the EU – the preferred option of some Conservative Brexiteers.
Demands by other opposition parties for a second referendum and Brexit to be delayed, were also rejected outright by the prime minister, sources in the opposition meetings told Business Insider.
Ripping up the Good Friday Agreement
Downing Street has reportedly considered an alternative plan to renegotiate the Good Friday Agreement in order to avoid the need for a backstop with the EU.
The GFA peace deal was agreed between the UK, Northern Irish parties and the Republic of Ireland in the 1990s after decades of bloody conflict in Northern Ireland.
Ripping up the Belfast Agreement would be incredibly controversial, take months, if not years, and require a series of referendums in order to ratify it. Downing Street sources deny any plans to rip up the Good Friday Agreement.
The prime minister’s official spokesman denied plans to rip up the agreement on Monday.
“The Prime Minister has been clear on multiple occasions that we are committed to upholding the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts and to delivering a solution that avoids a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland,” he said.
Talks with backbench MPs continued on Monday, with the prime minister’s chief of staff Gavin Barwell and her de facto deputy David Lidington meeting with MPs supporting a second referendum.
May’s spokesman told Business Insider: “We are meeting with parliamentarians and what we have seen so far is that they will have a number of ideas when they come to these meetings. They won’t necessarily just be focused on a single idea.”