Westminster Votes To Amend Brexit Deal

MP's in Westminster have backed a plan to seek "alternative arrangements" to replace the Irish backstop in Theresa May's Brexit plan.

The proposal was forwarded by Tory MP Sir Graham Brady and won the government's support by 16 votes.

Theresa May had urged Parliament to vote in favour of it, allowing her to return to Brussels and re-open negotiations in order to secure legal changes.

The backstop is an insurance policy included in the original deal to ensure that, no matter what happens, a hard border will not be put in place between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Another amendment rejecting a no-deal Brexit also won the support of Parliament in the vote on Tuesday 29 January, but the leave date remains set for 29 March.

The leader of the Democratic Unionist Party in Westminster, Nigel Dodds, said it was a "significant night" and his MPs would work with Mrs May "to deliver the right deal for the United Kingdom".

But the leader of the SNP in Westminster, Ian Blackford, said that passing the amendment had seen the government "rip up the Good Friday Agreement", which is integral to the peace process in Northern Ireland.

Following the development, Brexit spokesperson for the Alliance Party Stephen Farry said Parliament had voted to send the negotiation process down a "dead-end" by seeking an alternative deal.

The Prime Minister hopes the new approach will give her a stronger negotiating position in Brussels, but the EU has said it will not change the legal text already agreed.
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"Many people will be exasperated at a dysfunctional Parliament unable to process and work through the real choices facing the UK around Brexit. Thirty-one months on from the referendum there is still no coherent way forward," said Dr Farry.

"Those opposed to a no deal and alternative softer versions of Brexit are struggling to unify around an effective pathway. While there may be a majority for the principle of a no deal, there is no agreed means to stop it. By contrast, the Prime Minister has conducted a shameful u-turn on the backstop, and abandoned the deal she made with the EU only a few weeks ago.

"Throughout the Brexit process, the Prime Minister and UK Government have been clear they would avoid a hard border in Ireland at all costs. The need for the backstop only arises from the UK's decision to leave the EU and the mutually incompatible red-lines. At no stage has the UK Government produced any viable alternative. And crucially, the Prime Minister did sign up to the backstop as part of the Withdrawal Agreement and defend its necessity. This abandonment of the backstop is an enormous act of bad faith and sends a terrible message to the people of Northern Ireland."

The north Down MLA added that the development in the House of Commons was "a pointless victory for the Government".

"The EU is rightly clear the backstop and the Withdrawal Agreement are not up for renegotiation, and have indicated as such once again today. So this represents a dead-end. This amendment is therefore the ultimate unicorn, only serving to waste time and increase the risk of a catastrophic no deal crash-out.

"There are consequences to constant delay and failure to face reality, as businesses and others cannot wait for certainty, and may choose to take proactive decisions which impact on investment and jobs," Mr Farry concluded.


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