Commentary by our colleagues from Pagefield in London:
With 37 days remaining until Britain is scheduled to leave the EU on 29 March, the two sides have agreed to continue exploring possible amendments to the Brexit deal that could help it pass through House of Commons successfully, while still respecting the EU 27’s guidelines.
Prime Minister Theresa May is currently attempting to secure concessions from the EU regarding the legal text of the agreement due to opposition to the current terms from MPs.
A series of votes were held in Parliament on 29 January regarding the potential changes to the Prime Minister’s deal and most – including a bid to delay Brexit to prevent a no-deal departure – were defeated. She has promised to return to the House of Commons by 13 February at the latest with fresh proposals, which will be put to the vote, however this now looks likely to be delayed as she has been unable to secure changes to the deal from the EU.
The key area of concern for MPs is the Irish backstop – technically a safety net to ensure that there is no hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, whatever the outcome of future trade talks between the UK and the EU.
Last week, Jean-Claude Juncker, European Council President, and Donald Tusk, European Council President, said the EU would welcome a UK decision to sign up to a permanent customs union with Brussels as a way of ending the stand-off – the proposal is also backed by Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the UK’s opposition Labour Party. However, the Prime Minister is currently refusing to go down that route, fearing it would create further divisions within her Conservative Party.
In the coming weeks, Theresa May expected to propose a draft bill guaranteeing that UK workers’ rights will keep pace with those in Europe in an attempt to get Labour MPs to support her Brexit deal and finally find a way through the current political impasse.