(Brexit) Theresa May secures legally binding changes to deal

Business | 12 Mar 2019 9:47 am

Britain and the European Union emerged from last-minute talks late yesterday to announce they had finally removed the biggest roadblock to their Brexit divorce deal, only hours before the U.K. Parliament was due to decide the fate of Prime Minister Theresa May’s hard-won plan to leave the EU.

On the eve of today’s vote in London, May flew to Strasbourg, France, to seek revisions, guarantees or other changes from European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker that would persuade reluctant British legislators to back her withdrawal agreement with the EU, which they resoundingly rejected in January.

At a joint news conference, May and Juncker claimed to have succeeded.

May said new documents to be added to the deal provided "legally binding changes” to the part relating to the Irish border. The legal 585-page withdrawal agreement itself though was left intact.

"In politics, sometimes you get a second chance. It is what you do with this second chance that counts. Because there will be no third chance,” Juncker warned the legislators who will vote late Tuesday.

"Let’s be crystal clear about the choice: it is this deal or Brexit might not happen at all,” he said.

May said the changes should overcome lawmakers’ qualms about a mechanism in the deal designed to keep an open border between Britain’s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland. The mechanism, known as the backstop, is a safeguard that would keep the U.K. in a customs union with the EU until a permanent new trading relationship is in place.

Brexit-supporters in Britain fear the backstop could be used to bind the country to EU regulations indefinitely.

May said the new wording "will guarantee that the EU cannot act with the intent of applying the backstop indefinitely.”

"Now is the time to come together to back this improved Brexit deal and deliver on the instruction of the British people,” she said.-AP

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