A proposal by conservative MP Sir Graham Brady enabling the government to make "alternative arrangements" on the Irish backstop has won support in parliament.

By Daniel Herborn

Posted on January 30, 2019

UK Prime Minister Theresa May encouraged MPs to vote for the bill and said it would allow her to reopen negotiations with Brussels on Brexit, and the Irish backstop specifically.

The EU has rejected the idea of returning to the negotiating table, however, and has said it will not change the text around the Irish backstop it has already agreed to. Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, took only minutes to respond and shut down talk of re-negotiations.

A bill to postpone Brexit in the event of no-deal was voted down

Labour MP Yvette Cooper introduced a bill to delay Brexit in the event that May does not receive parliamentary support for her deal, but this was defeated.

May later hit out at Cooper’s amendment, saying it sought “to create and exploit mechanisms that allow Parliament to usurp the proper role of the executive.

“Such actions would be unprecedented, and have far-reaching and long-term consequences for the way the United Kingdom is governed,” she added.

A separate amendment, rejecting a no-deal Brexit, also won support but it has no legal effect. The UK is still locked into leaving the EU on 29 March.

After the vote, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he would meet with May to discuss the next steps. He said it was now inevitable that Brexit would be delayed as the government sought a deal with Brussels.

The bills represented an attempt to take control of the lengthy and convoluted process from May, whose withdrawal agreement has failed to win wide support.

Earlier in January, May narrowly survived a no-confidence vote in her leadership by a margin of 325-306.

UK lawmakers have not found a satisfactory resolution for the Irish ‘backstop’ issue

The Irish ‘backstop’ continues to be the most contentious part of May’s EU deal as critics say it is ambiguous on how the land border between Northern Ireland (part of the UK) and Ireland (an EU nation) will be administered. The current arrangement for trade and travel at the border has helped maintain a fragile peace in the region.

While May has not been able to formulate a plan that is palatable to her own party or parliament generally, there is a consensus that leaving the EU without a deal would be disastrous. If that occurs, The Bank of England has predicted the worst recession seen in Britain in nearly a century would follow. Similarly, the American Chamber of Commerce has projected a no-deal Brexit could threaten 1.4 million jobs and cost the UK US$593 billion in direct investment from US firms.

UK business leaders and lawyers previously banded together to call for a second referendum on Brexit to provide a way forward.

Meanwhile, there has been such a rush on Irish passports that post offices have run out of the application forms. The rush on Irish passports has been widely understood as being fuelled by Brexit fears.

Header image credit: Number 10