JAKARTA (TheInsiderStories) – United Kingdom (UK) Prime Minister Theresa May managed to get European Union (EU) leaders’ legally binding assurances that the Brexit agreement will not trap UK indefinitely in EU rules and regulation. The assurance received after 11 hours of negotiations.
“Today we have secured legal changes. Now is the time to come together, to back this improved Brexit deal and to deliver on the instruction of the British people,” May said.
The deal is only about the terms of departure and does not include the future relationship between UK and the EU. It also sets out US$50 billion divorce settlement that Britain will pay and it allows for a two-year transition period, while things will remain essentially in terms of trade, migration, security and travel.
But the backstop clause aims to preserve the free and open border on the island of Ireland reached an impasse. Many British lawmakers fear that it would limit their country’s sovereignty, requiring them to continue to abide by European rules and regulations on customs and trade forever.
May announced three documents — a joint instrument, a joint statement and a unilateral declaration — which she said were aimed at addressing the most contentious part of the divorce deal she agreed in November: the Irish backstop.
The backstop is an insurance policy aimed at avoiding controls on the sensitive border between the British province of Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland, though some British lawmakers worry it could trap the United Kingdom in the EU’s orbit indefinitely.
“The backstop is an insurance policy. Nothing more, nothing less. The intention is for it never to be used, like every insurance policy. There will be no new negotiations. It is this,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker reasoned.
May was greeted in Strasbourg, France, by Jean-Claude Juncker and Michel Barnier as she arrived in pursuit of a Brexit compromise, after a phone call with the European commission president earlier in the day. Ambassadors for the 27 EU member states were told at a briefing that the negotiations had become more combative.
But it is unclear whether the assurance would be enough to win over a divided House of Commons. Keir Starmer, the opposition Labour Party responded that the changes announced were not a breakthrough. Moreover, the EU can’t agree how to keep the border on the island of Ireland free and open.
UK House of Commons are scheduled to vote on the Brexit agreement on March 12. It will determine whether UK will officially leave the EU with the recent agreement. If Parliament rejects her deal, lawmakers are expected to vote on March 13 over the no-deal Brexit. If the lawmakers decide they still want to try for a managed withdrawal, they’re expected to vote on March 14 to postpone Brexit. But delaying Britain’s departure would require permission from the EU.
May said earlier that if such delay were necessary, it would be granted only once, and shouldn’t go beyond the end of June. Meanwhile, anti-Brexit lawmakers hope that if Britain’s departure is delayed, it’s a moment to build a second referendum to ask voters whether they really want to leave the EU.
The British government’s top lawyer, Attorney General Geoffrey Cox, is due to set out his legal analysis of the assurances ahead of Tuesday’s vote. Many pro-Brexit lawmakers will wait to see that before deciding how to vote.
If she loses the vote, May has said lawmakers will get a vote on Wednesday on whether to leave without a deal and, if they reject that, then a vote on whether to ask for a limited delay to Brexit.
Senior British government ministers have warned rebellious lawmakers that if May’s deal is voted down then there is a chance that Brexit could be thwarted.
Brexit will pitch the world’s fifth largest economy into the unknown and many fear it will serve to divide the West as it grapples with both the unconventional presidency of Donald Trump and growing assertiveness from Russia and China.
Supporters of Brexit say that while the divorce might bring some short-term instability, in the longer term it will allow the UK to thrive and also enable deeper EU integration without such a powerful reluctant member.
Written by Staff Editor, Email: Theinsiderstories@gmail.com