Brexit: ‘Legally binding’ changes to EU deal agreed (BBC): Theresa May says she has secured “legally binding” changes to her Brexit deal a day ahead of MPs voting on it. But European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker warned if the deal was voted down there was “no third chance”. In the discussions with Mr Juncker and the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, two documents were agreed by all parties:
- a “joint legally-binding instrument” on the withdrawal agreement; and
- “joint statement” adding to the political declaration to commit to replacing the backstop with alternative arrangements by December 2020
May’s full speech here – notable statements include:
- in relation to the joint instrument: “the EU cannot act with the intent of applying the backstop indefinitely. If they do, it can be challenged through arbitration and if they are found to be in breach the UK can suspend the backstop”
- in relation to the joint statement adding to the political declaration: “it makes a legal commitment that the UK and the EU will begin work immediately to replace the backstop with alternative arrangements by the end of December 2020”
- “the United Kingdom government will make a unilateral declaration that, if the backstop comes into use and discussions on our future relationship break down so that there is no prospect of subsequent agreement, it is the position of the United Kingdom that there would be nothing to prevent the UK instigating measures that would ultimately disapply the backstop.”
Communication to the Commission here – note the Commission has endorsed these documents today
C. Juncker’s letter to D. Tusk here asking that these documents be approved by the Councilat its meeting of 21-22 March (subject to prior approval by the Commons) – notable extracts include:
- “I believe it is now high time to complete the withdrawal process in line with the wishes expressed by the government of the UK and to move on, as swiftly as possible, to the negotiations of our future partnership”
- Leo Varadkar is “prepared to back this approach in the interests of an overall deal”
- “the UK’s withdrawal should be complete before the European elections that will take place between 23-26 May this year. If the UK has not left the European Union by then, it will be legally required to hold these elections“
Reactions from across the bench (BBC):
- Several Tory MPs have suggested that the PM postpone tomorrow’s vote by 24h to give the Commons more time to examine the changes to the Withdrawal Agreement.
- Corbyn stated that T. May’s negotiations have failed and called MPs to reject her deal tomorrow.
- DUP have stated that they will review the deal overnight.
- Rees-Mogg has described this as a move in the right direction.
- Collins, prominent Tory backbencher who voted remain, stated he would vote against the government’s motion tomorrow (“We have the power to apply to an arbitration panel to leave the back stop, but not the right to leave by ourselves.”)
- Conservative MP and Brexiteer Mike Penning has said he will now vote for the deal.
Jean-Claude Junckerand Michel Barnier briefed the European Parliament’s Brexit steering group (Guardian)
The motion for the meaningful vote was published (BBC):
That this House approves for the purposes of section 13(1)(b) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 the following documents laid before the House on Monday 11 March 2019:
(1) the negotiated withdrawal agreement titled ‘Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community’;
(2) the framework for the future relationship titled ‘Political Declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom’;
(3) the legally binding joint instrument titled ‘Instrument relating to the Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community’, which reduces the risk the UK could be deliberately held in the Northern Ireland backstop indefinitely and commits the UK and the EU to work to replace the backstop with alternative arrangements by December 2020;
(4) the unilateral declaration by the UK titled ‘Declaration by Her Majesty’s Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland concerning the Northern Ireland Protocol’, setting out the sovereign action the UK would take to provide assurance that the backstop would only be applied temporarily; and
(5) the supplement to the framework for the future relationship titled ‘Joint Statement supplementing the Political Declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’, setting out commitments by the UK and the EU to expedite the negotiation and bringing into force of their future relationship.