Members of Parliament (MPs) have backed an amendment that will see Prime Minister Theresa May return to the European Union (EU) and re-open negotiations for the withdrawal deal, a scenario which the EU has rejected on a number of occasions.
Seven amendments were voted on today and the Government was victorious in all but one of those – the amendment put forward by Conservative MP Dame Caroline Spelman that there should not be a withdrawal without a deal.
Spelman’s amendment, although passed by MPs, is not binding on the Government and although this amendment is said to give an indication as to how Parliament may vote in two weeks’ time when the Prime Minister returns to put forward her amended proposals for the withdrawal, it does not take no-deal off the table.
However, Parliament did also vote for the Government-backed amendment put forward by Sir Graham Brady that would see a removal of the Irish Backstop in favour of future arrangements yet to be established, and with an extension of the transition period by one year, to December 2021.
An immediate response from the EU came from Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, who said, “the withdrawal agreement is and remains the best and only way to ensure an orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU. The backstop is part of the withdrawal agreement and the withdrawal agreement is not open for renegotiation.”
It appears that the EU states are holding firm on their resolve not to make any amendments to the negotiated deal. If the EU’s resolve holds it would leave the British Government with very little room to manoeuvre and will finally kill off May’s Brexit deal. In effect the country is in the same position that it was in December, with no majority for any course of action in Parliament, a paralysis of government.
No-deal in this scenario has moved another step closer and the fear amongst the business community and freight operators is that the brinkmanship being played out by the political class will accidentally lead to a hard Brexit, putting jobs and businesses at severe risk.