May sets deadline for EU negotiations over Brexit backstop changes

Joe Curtis
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May's speech today makes it clear parliament will have a month to find a new path on Brexit if her deal negotiations fail (Source: Getty)

Theresa May today told MPs that they would get another vote on the next steps in the Brexit process later this month if she fails to secure changes from the EU.

Parliament will get to vote on the path forward on 27 February - a month before the UK’s scheduled departure from the bloc - if May doesn’t win changes from the EU.

Read more: Theresa May to tell MPs to hold their nerve over Brexit

EU negotiations continue as the Prime Minister attempts to find an alternative to the so-called Irish backstop, an arrangement designed to avoid a hard border in Ireland once the UK departs.

The backstop has stoked fears that the UK may be tied indefinitely to EU customs union rules.

If May fails to secure any changes to the backstop the government will table an amendable motion on 26 February, she said today, with a vote the following day.

However, in the meantime the Prime Minister will seek to secure her changes from the EU, which has so far refused to renegotiate the withdrawal agreement.

May’s deal was resoundingly rejected in December over concerns around the backstop, which MPs pointed out the UK cannot exit of its own accord.

"We now all need to hold our nerve to get the changes this House requires and deliver Brexit on time," she said.

“We now need some time to complete that process,” May added. “When we achieve that progress we will bring forward another meaningful vote.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused May of “recklessly running down the clock” on her deal before the UK leaves the EU on 29 March, in order to give MPs a choice of her deal or none at all.

May said: “Opposing no deal is not enough to stop it. We must agree a deal that this house can support and that is what we are working to achieve.”

Read more: Channel Tunnel operators threaten legal action over Brexit ferry contracts

May returned to Brussels this month after MPs backed Tory MP Sir Graham Brady’s arrangement to replace the backstop with “alternative arrangements” yet to be defined.

Corbyn today called for a permanent customs union to be created to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.