MPs to start 5 day Brexit Withdrawal Agreement debate

Rodiano Bonacci
Gennaio 9, 2019

The move by Corbyn - himself criticised for his failure to push for a second referendum - came after the First Minister of Scotland and leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) Nicola Sturgeon said that she would announce her preferred timetable for a second referendum on Scottish independence "when we get to the end of this phase of the Brexit process".

The focus so far has been very much on the Withdrawal Agreement and in particular the Irish backstop, which is proving the big obstacle to the deal being pushed through the Commons.

"But it is also the intention, if that were not to take place, that we respond quickly to provide certainty on the way forward following that vote".

A government source conceded these may not be secured before MPs resume debating the Brexit deal on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, a European Commission spokesman played down talk of a possible renegotiation of the Brexit deal which has been agreed, saying, "Everything on the table has been approved and the priority now is to await events in the United Kingdom".

"There are no negotiations, because all we have on the table is what we consider given, acquired and approved", he said.

Without a withdrawal agreement, Britain faces the prospect of crashing out of the bloc on that date with no deal, a development that could see tariffs slapped on British exports to the European Union, widespread disruption at ports and shortages of food and pharmaceuticals.

The future of Brexit remains deeply uncertain - with options ranging from a disorderly exit from the European Union to another membership referendum - because British lawmakers are expected on January 15 to vote down the deal May struck with the EU in November. She postponed a scheduled vote on the deal in December after it became clear she would lose.

The 303 to 296 defeat means that the government needs explicit parliamentary approval to leave the European Union without a deal before it can use certain powers relating to taxation law.

"The government's decision to delay the meaningful vote has run down the clock and increased the risk of a no deal Brexit", Labour's Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer said.

Some Brexit supporters say there is nothing to be feared from this.

Addressing the Commons on Wednesday, May urged MPs to back the withdrawal agreement she negotiated with European counterparts, warning it was the only way to avoid a no-deal departure.

May was due to meet Conservative MPs over private drinks this week to try to sway waverers, and one minister insisted the vote next week could still be won.

On Tuesday, legislators in the House of Commons handed the government a symbolic defeat by backing an amendment to the Finance Bill that puts roadblocks in the way of government spending on "no-deal" preparations.

Some 89 lorries were involved in two test runs of the 20-mile lorry park operation, but the Road Haulage Association's chief executive, Richard Burnett, described the exercise as "too little too late", adding, "This process should have started nine months ago". Now around 10,000 heavy goods vehicles arrive every day at the port.

Opposition to May's deal is spread across the political spectrum, including sections of her own ruling Conservative Party and the 10 Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MPs her government relies on to command a majority in parliament.

It also said it would accept a change to its Brexit plans which, if passed, would mean that parliament would have the chance to express its disapproval about entering the backstop, if the need to do so arose, without compromising the deal.

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