Theresa May to renegotiate Brexit deal after MPs vote for Irish backstop to be ripped up

  • MPs have voted for a plan to send Theresa May back to Brussels renegotiate her Brexit deal.
  • The Brady amendment, which passed by 317 votes to 301, demands that the Irish backstop is removed from the Brexit withdrawal agreement and replaced with alternative arrangements.
  • MPs also pass an amendment rejecting a no-deal Brexit but reject another amendment calling for Brexit to be delayed.
  • May insists the votes mean that the EU must re-open talks, but admits that there is “limited appetite” in the EU for a renegotiation.
  • The EU immediately rejects the plan and warns that the Brexit deal is not open for renegotiation.

LONDON – Theresa May will return to Brussels in a bid to renegotiate her Brexit deal after MPs voted to demand changes to the controversial Northern Ireland backstop.

The UK House of Commons voted in favour of an amendment by Conservative MP Graham Brady which demands that the Irish backstop – a measure opposed by many Tory MPs – is removed from the Withdrawal Agreement and replaced with “alternative arrangements.”

The Conservative party whipped its MPs in favour of the amendment, with officials saying it would allow Theresa May to send a “clear message” to Brussels that the current deal, signed up to by the prime minister in November, is unacceptable.

A separate amendment calling on May to reject a no-deal Brexit was also passed by MPs. However, the Commons rejected an amendment by Labour MP Yvette Cooper which could have forced May to extend Article 50 and delay Brexit.

The prime minister said the results showed “that there is a route that can secure a substantial and sustainable majority in this house for leaving the EU with a deal.”

However, she acknowledged that there was “limited appetite for such a change in the EU and negotiating it will not be easy.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told May that he was prepared to meet with the prime minister and discuss parliament’s next steps, following the Commons’ rejection of no-deal

“I will meet the prime minister and others from across parliament to find a sensible Brexit solution that works for the whole country,” he said.

Senior EU figures immediately rejected May’s call to re-open negotiations.

“The Withdrawal agreement is and remains the best and only way to ensure an orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union,” European Council President Donald Tusk said.

“The backstop is part of the Withdrawal Agreement, and the Withdrawal Agreement is not open for re-negotiation”

The Brexit-supporting European Research Group of Tory MPs initially threatened to vote against the Brady amendment because it was too vague, but eventually backed down on Tuesday.

However, EU negotiators have repeatedly warned that the Withdrawal Agreement is not open for renegotiation and senior EU figures are preparing to issue an immediate statement explaining that it will reject Theresa May’s latest plan.

The EU’s deputy chief Brexit negotiator Sabine Weyand said on Monday: “We’re not going to reopen the [Withdrawal] Agreement.”

She said the EU was open to replacing the backstop with a viable alternative, but suggested the UK had failed to propose one.

“We’re not wedded to our backstop,” she said.

“We’re open to alternative suggestions from the UK. The problem is there weren’t any. Negotiators haven’t been able to explain them to us. That’s not their fault it’s because they don’t exist.”

What is the Irish backstop?

Irish border

The backstop is a fallback measure which seeks to avoid the emergence of border checks between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The UK and EU agreed last year that such a measure was necessary to honour the Good Friday peace agreement, but Conservative Brexiteers who oppose it believe the measure it could keep the UK permanently bound within a customs union and divide Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.