The Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, has selected seven amendments to the Government’s Brexit deal to be debated and voted on tonight in the British Parliament.
Included in the seven chosen amendments are Labour’s call for a permanent customs union, with a requirement to take a no-deal withdrawal off the table. A number of other amendments look to variously extend the Article 50 deadline beyond 29 March, or to scrap the Irish Backstop altogether.
However, Conservative Members of Parliament (MPs) have agreed to a deal that would present an alternative to the Irish Backstop that a number of factions within the party have united behind and could see the Sir Graham Brady amendment passed.
The deal was thrashed out over the last few days by Conservative MPs. The deal has been dubbed the Malthouse Compromise, after a housing minister who encouraged the warring factions of the Conservative Party to talk.
The Malthouse Comprise consists of scrapping the Irish Backstop with no border controls and extending the transition period by a year, to December 2021. However, the deal would require a yet-to-be-developed technology to monitor cargo across the border and the agreement of a new trade deal within the transition period.
Prime Minister Theresa May has said she will take the deal to the European Union (EU) to make legal amendments to the Northern Ireland backstop.
Reaction to the deal within the Republic of Ireland has been cool, with Irish officials reminding the government that the EU has already emphasised on a number of occasions that the Brexit deal cannot be renegotiated.
It is understood that Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, phoned May today and reiterated the EU position that the withdrawal agreement will not be renegotiated.
May admitted in Parliament today that there was “little appetite” within the EU to reopen the Brexit negotiations. But May said that with a mandate from the House of Commons that she could secure the changes necessary to the withdrawal deal.
Labour has reiterated that it is intent on securing an amendment that would rule out no deal as, “the first duty of this house [the House of Commons]”. This view was supported by the Scottish Nationalist Party and, more surprisingly by Conservative backbencher Caroline Spelman.
Spelman told the House, “The Government says it’s not its policy to leave with no deal, so let’s rule it out. The threat of no deal has been used as a stick to get more concessions, but in my view that card has played out, it has not secured the needed changes, for example on the backstop.”
At this stage it is not clear how the votes on the major amendments will go even though the Democratic Unionist Party, which has a deal to support the Conservative minority government, has said it will back the Brady amendment, after voting against May’s deal two weeks ago.