British Prime Minister Theresa May has outlined the changes to her European Union (EU) withdrawal deal that she hopes will allow Members of Parliament (MPs) to vote for the Brexit deal if it is voted on for a fourth time.
Speaking at a press conference in central London, May explained that she had listened to the concerns of her confidence and supply partners, the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and the Labour Party and to those within the Conservative Party who felt they could not support her deal in its previous incarnations.
Her latest deal will be put before MPs during the week of 3 June, nearly two weeks after the European elections, which will take place on 23 May. But rather than just offering a vote on the proposal, May is presenting the deal as part of a bill that will be voted into law on its second reading, with any amendments that MPs wish to make.
May’s new Brexit plan includes 10 new offers in an attempt to get MPs to vote for the plan, including finding alternative arrangements for the Irish backstop by December 2020, so that the backstop will never need to be used.
Should it become necessary for the backstop to enter into force, the Government guarantees to keep Britain aligned with Northern Ireland.
In a concession to Labour Party MPs, May has said that workers’ rights will remain aligned with the European Union’s laws or be at least as favourable as European workers’ rights.
Britain’s environmental protections following Brexit will also remain at the same level as the European Union’s.
On trade in goods, May said the United Kingdom would look to have regulations that are as close as possible to frictionless trade, while still honoring the referendum by leaving the single market and ending the free movement of people.
May added that, “We will keep up-to-date with EU rules for goods and agri-food products that are relevant to checks at the border, protecting the thousands of jobs that depend on just-in-time supply chains.” In addition, the government will bring forward a customs compromise that MPs can vote on in an effort to break the deadlock over this issue.
Furthermore, May plans to add a legal duty for Government to secure changes to the political declaration to reflect this new proposal.
In order to secure the votes of as many MPs as possible, May has added a clause to allow Parliament to vote on whether her new offer should be put to the people in a second referendum.
All negotiating objectives and final treaties for Britain’s future relationship with the EU will have to be approved by MPs.
May added, “All of these commitments will be guaranteed in law – so they will endure at least for this Parliament.” And therein lies the problem for any possible Labour support; the proposal cannot be guaranteed by May because she will be leaving office immediately after her deal is concluded.
Meanwhile, only minutes after May concluded the presentation of her “bold new deal,” three Conservative MPs tweeted their anger at what appears to be the Prime Minister’s support for a second referendum.
MP Zac Goldsmith tweeted, “I supported the PM’s rotten deal last time as I felt we could then draw a line and select a new PM to pick up the pieces. But I cannot support this convoluted mess. That it takes us towards a rigged referendum between her deal and no Brexit is just grotesque. The PM must go.”
Another Tory MP, Andrew Percy, also aired his dissatisfaction, “I’m frustrated… I really am concerned about the proposed possibility of a second referendum. People were told in the referendum, it was the final say on the matter for a generation – it would be implemented.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also responded to May’s new offer, saying that Labour will not support the bill because it is “a rehash” of what was previously offered.
With the odds stacked against May and her bill, it seems likely that she will resign very shortly after the vote in Parliament. This will trigger a race for the Tory leadership, which currently has an estimated 20 candidates, although former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is currently around 26 points ahead of his nearest challenger. The latest YouGov poll of Conservative members showed Johnson at 39 percent with his closest rival, Dominic Raab, the former Brexit secretary, at 13 percent.
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