May Gets Boost as She Seeks Approval for EU Deal: Brexit Update

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Prime Minister Theresa May received a boost this weekend as she prepares to return her Brexit deal to Parliament within the next nine days.

Pro-Brexit hardliners in her Conservative Party outlined conditions for supporting her plan, the Sunday Times reported. Meanwhile, Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee of rank-and-file Tory lawmakers, expressed optimism that a breakthrough on the Irish backstop issue is near.

Key Developments

  • Document drafted by the European Research Group cites three tests for their support for her deal, the Sunday Times said: a demand for a legally binding clause that “unambiguously overrides” the text of the withdrawal agreement, stronger language that the so-called Irish border backstop will be temporary and a “clear and unconditional route out of the backstop if trade talks fail.”
  • Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Brady said the country is “tired of vacillation and delay” and urges colleagues to “pull together behind the prime minister and help her to deliver our exit from the European Union on March 29,” providing the “right compromise is offered.”
  • May, whose original Brexit deal was overwhelmingly rejected in January, has offered Parliament a vote to delay Brexit if a revised deal with the EU is dismissed. The “meaningful vote” on her Brexit plans will be held by March 12.
  • Labour opposition has shifted position and now supports a second referendum. But the move has angered dozens of Labour lawmakers representing Brexit-supporting constituencies. They include Caroline Flint, who is demanding a free vote allowing them to back an improved Brexit deal.

Fox Urges Parliament to Back May’s Deal (10:52 a.m.)

Trade Secretary Liam Fox welcomed the ERG’s offer as a “genuine attempt to map out common ground.” Speaking on BBC Television’s “Andrew Marr Show” Sunday, he urged MPs to “do the honorable thing and vote for the prime minister’s agreement,” so that Britain can leave the European Union as scheduled on March 29.

Fox was also asked about a future trade deal with the U.S. after the Trump administration last week published its “negotiating objectives,” including “comprehensive access” for agricultural goods. Opponents have argued that a U.S. trade deal means opening up the U.K. to chlorine-treated chicken and genetically modified crops.

“Will we accept things against the interests or our consumers? No we won’t, it’s a negotiation,” Fox said.

Blair Says U.K. is Heading for a ‘Blind Brexit’ (10:35 a.m.)

Among the figures advocating a second referendum is Tony Blair, the former Labour prime minister. But, he says, voters first need to know what the future relationship with the EU will be. “I think you’ll get to another referendum when people understand that a hard Brexit is going to be deeply economically painful for the country and a soft Brexit means we just become a rule-taker,” he said on the Marr show.

Blair also predicted that more people will join the new anti-Brexit Independent Group of 11 MPs that split from Labour and the Tories. Between a “hard Brexit’’ Tory party and a “hard left’’ Labour Party, “you leave that amount of fertile territory open and someone is going to come and cultivate it.’’

A Politico poll last week found that a quarter of voters would consider backing the new group in an election They included almost a third of Labour supporters. However, Blair told Marr that while he had sympathy for what the breakaway MPs were trying to achieve, he was staying in the Labour Party.

“I’ve been in the Labour Party for over 40 years, I led it for 13 years, he said. “I was the longest-serving Labour prime minister, I’m deeply attached to the Labour Party.’’

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