London: British Prime Minister Theresa May has claimed to have secured ”legally binding changes” to the Brexit withdrawal agreement from the European Union prior to a key parliamentary vote on Tuesday.
British Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington notified Parliament of the development following negotiations between May and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in the French city Strasbourg earlier on Monday.
Lidington said the sides had agreed to a joint legally binding mechanism seeking to replace the so-called Irish backstop with alternative arrangements by December 2020.
“The EU cannot try to trap the UK in the backstop indefinitely, and that doing so would be an explicit breach of the legally binding commitments that both sides have agreed,” Lidington said.
The backstop clause of the Brexit deal is an insurance policy designed to prevent the return of border checks between British-ruled Northern Ireland and Ireland, which is an EU member.
Critics of May’s deal believe the backstop may trap the UK in the EU’s customs union indefinitely once the clause is triggered at the end of 2020.
Monday’s development comes as government sources had said earlier in the day that previous talks with the EU over the matter had reached a standstill.
May also didn’t appear in parliament following an urgent question called by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn about progress in the Brexit talks. Corbyn accused May’s government of “delay”, saying that it is now “time for answers”.
May’s draft Brexit deal with the EU was rejected in parliament by a large majority on January 15. She has since vowed to work with the EU to find a solution to the backstop problem.
However, many expect the premier to finally fail to gain parliament support for her Brexit deal.
May has said that if a revised version of the deal is rejected in the House of Commons, she will have no option but to bring the UK out of the EU on March 29 in a disorderly manner.
A no-deal Brexit is speculated by many to entail serious political and economic repercussions for the country.