May looks for ‘back­stop’ clar­ity to help pass deal

The Guardian Weekly - - Gobal Report -

Theresa May is likely to be of­fered an “ex­change of let­ters” con­firm­ing the EU’s in­ten­tion to con­clude trade talks with the UK by 2021, as Brus­sels seeks to help the prime min­is­ter in the run-up to next week’s Com­mons vote on her deal.

The cor­re­spon­dence would flesh out lan­guage al­ready in­cluded in the with­drawal agree­ment but it is hoped its clar­ity could per­suade some MPs of the EU’s in­ten­tion to avoid trig­ger­ing the Ir­ish back­stop.

Should talks on a suf­fi­ciently com­pre­hen­sive and deep fu­ture trade deal be agreed and rat­i­fied by the start of 2021, it is hoped there would be no need for the whole of the UK to fall into the cus­toms union en­vis­aged by the back­stop – an “all-weather” solution for avoid­ing a hard bor­der on the is­land of Ire­land.

As MPs re­turned to West­min­ster this week with the cru­cial Com­mons vote loom­ing, Down­ing Street in­sisted that new com­pro­mises could still be won from Europe that would en­sure the safe pas­sage of May’s plan.

May faces sig­nif­i­cant ob­sta­cles to get her with­drawal deal passed in by back­bench and op­po­si­tion MPS with pro­pos­als for al­ter­na­tive deals still be­ing pro­moted on both sides of the House. The deputy leader of May’s North­ern Ir­ish al­lies, the DUP, call­ing the planned “back­stop” ar­range­ment over North­ern Ire­land “toxic”.

Mean­while, thou­sands of Labour mem­bers have de­manded their party op­pose May’s Brexit deal and back a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum over EU mem­ber­ship. The call comes be­fore a key party gath­er­ing that will be held amid warn­ings that some are al­ready end­ing their mem­ber­ship over the is­sue.

The pres­sure emerges as the big­gest Brexit poll con­ducted since the ref­er­en­dum sug­gests sup­port for Labour would fall sig­nif­i­cantly should it back or al­low its MPs to back a Brexit agree­ment.

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