Tuesday, 19 March, 2019

Brexit backstop legal risk 'unchanged': UK attorney general

0b0a8dd4 British PM May fails to win over her party ahead of Brexit vote
Andrew Cummings | 16 March, 2019, 02:31

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing street in London, Thursday, March 14, 2019. She has said she will ask to extend that to June 30 if her deal is approved next week, to give time for legislation.

The vote authorises Theresa May to ask the European Union to extend Article 50 until June 30 - that is, if MPs vote in favour of her Brexit deal when it is put to a vote for a third time next week.

May will spend Friday and the weekend trying to persuade opponents to support the withdrawal agreement, which Parliament has resoundingly defeated twice.

Jeremy Corbyn is planning to push for a second referendum only after Theresa May's deal has been voted through by MPs, i can reveal. Today Chancellor Philip Hammond hinted that Attorney General Geoffrey Cox could revisit his legal advice on whether Britain would be trapped in the Irish backstop "indefinitely" - unlocking votes for Mrs May's deal. He said he hoped the United Kingdom would "leave as soon as possible in an orderly fashion" if Parliament backs May's withdrawal agreement next week.

But she warned on Wednesday that if her deal were rejected next week, Brexit could be postponed for much longer.

May also needs to win over the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which has so far refused to back her plan.

Liberal party leader Guy Verfhofstadt expressed frustration about what he called repeated negative votes by British lawmakers, and said the European Union could only agree to a short delay if parliament made clear what exactly it would support. If she looks like she can not ratify it, then a delay may give governments and businesses more time to prepare for a disruptive exit but leaders may also prefer to end doubts.

The EU summit will take place on March 21-22, which gives her only three days next week to overturn the 149-vote defeat she suffered on March 12.

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If this time they approve her deal, then the delay to Brexit could be limited to three months; if they reject it again, the delay could be much longer and Britain would most likely have to take part in the upcoming European Union elections.

"She didn't want there to be an extension and brought forward the Withdrawal Agreement twice".

May's government and her Conservative Party are divided and discipline has frayed, with several ministers refusing to back the government's line in voting.

In this scenario, the government has said it is willing to find a way to allow parliament to seek a majority for an alternative path.

Disadvantages include: Britain having to return MEPs, disrupting a redistribution of seats in the European Parliament; a lopsided impact on parties, with the EU's center-left gaining on the center-right and a boost for euroskeptic groups; prolonged uncertainty when the EU has other priorities; and the prospect of a lukewarm Britain staying when some would rather it left.

The European Commission recalled Thursday evening that "any request for extension of (the period of negotiations provided for by) Article 50 requires the unanimous agreement of the 27 other member countries" and should be duly justified.

Members of Parliament voted 85 to 334 against a proposal to hold a new vote to break the deadlock in the Brexit process.

German Justice Minister Katarina Barley said Britain must use any extra time productively.

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