Wednesday, 24 April, 2019

Renegotiating Good Friday Agreement 'not an option'

Theresa May outside 10 Downing Street after MPs rejected Labour's motion of no confidence David Behrens Second referendum appears the only way out of the Brexit farce
Patty Aguilar | 21 January, 2019, 14:10

British news reports say that Prime Minister Theresa May plans to reject a cross-party consensus on Brexit in favour of avoiding a Conservative split.

London and Brussels have spent the best part of two years working on a divorce agreement but MPs in parliament's lower House of Commons comprehensively rejected it on Tuesday.

The plan B motion will be laid out on 21 January, while MPs are set to vote on it on 29 January.

Neale Richmond, a member of Ireland's governing Fine Gael party and chairman of the upper house of Parliament's Brexit committee, said the Good Friday Agreement can not be renegotiated lightly.

But the European Union insists it will not renegotiate the withdrawal agreement.

At least two cross-party groups of MPs are planning to table amendments to enable backbenchers to delay or frustrate May's proposals.

One group, including senior Labour MP Yvette Cooper and Tory former minister Nick Boles, is backing a bill to suspend the Article 50 withdrawal process if there is no new deal with Brussels by the end of February.

With feelings running high, the pro-Brexit International Trade Secretary Liam Fox warned of a "political tsunami" if the Government fails to deliver on the 2016 referendum vote.

Labour said some of its top team would visit businesses around the country on Monday to discuss the dangers of a "no deal" Brexit.

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"What we are now getting are some of those who were always absolutely opposed to the result of the referendum, trying to hijack Brexit..."

He denied claims he was seeking to prevent Britain leaving the European Union after International Trade Secretary Liam Fox accused pro-Remain MPs of trying to "hijack" the 2016 referendum vote. There are few signs she will make radical changes to her deal, though she may seek alternations to its most contentious section, an insurance policy known as the "backstop" that is meant to guarantee there are no customs checks along the Irish border.

Britain could not unilaterally pull out of the backstop.

Separately, The Sunday Times reported plans to seek a bilateral treaty with the Irish government as a way to remove the contentious backstop arrangement.

He said: "I can reassure you the Irish Government's commitment to the entire Withdrawal Agreement is absolute - including the backstop to ensure, no matter what, an open border between Ireland and Northern Ireland and the Good Friday Agreement are protected".

The leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, was expected to reiterate on Monday his willingness to talk to PM May on ways to break the deadlock over Brexit but only if she rules out a so-called no-deal Brexit scenario.

He said: "If there's an attempt to reverse the referendum, stop Brexit altogether I think that would cut across not only the democratic mandate, the biggest in history we had". He said: "One thing is certain: a hard, disorderly Brexit would harm us all". But with the deal the government negotiated with the European Union suffering the biggest House of Commons defeat in history last week and little sign there's a majority in favour of any alternative, many officials on both sides believe keeping the United Kingdom in the bloc beyond its scheduled March 29 exit date is the only plausible way forward.

"That includes continued support for the EU/UK agreed WA in full, including the backstop as negotiated".

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