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May offers more say for MPs to save Brexit deal

Updated December 07, 2018

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May says lawmakers could have a greater say over an arrangement to avoid border checks with Ireland. — AFP/File
May says lawmakers could have a greater say over an arrangement to avoid border checks with Ireland. — AFP/File

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May sought on Thursday to woo MPs with a promise of more power over the next stage of Brexit as she fought to save her EU withdrawal deal ahead of a crucial parliamentary vote next week.

May said lawmakers could have a greater say over an arrangement to avoid border checks with Ireland that could see Britain tied to EU rules for years after it leaves the bloc in March.

The so-called backstop is the key reason many of her own Conservative MPs and her Northern Irish allies opposed the divorce deal, putting her on course for defeat in the December 11 vote.

“People are concerned about the role of the UK in making these decisions. And the obvious, in terms of the UK, is for it to be parliament that makes these decisions,” May told BBC radio.

Ministers admit the deal struck with Brussels last month is not perfect but say it is the only option for an orderly Brexit after four decades of membership.

Civil servants on Thursday briefed senior MPs and ministers on plans for a “no deal scenario”, which some commentators suggested would focus minds on the implications of rejecting the agreement.

But the scale of the threatened defeat has left some speculating whether May could postpone the vote.

Senior Conservative MP Graham Brady, said he would welcome deferring the vote if it meant clarifying the issue of the backstop.

Former prime minister Tony Blair told reporters at an event in parliament: “Personally I don’t see what the point is of going down with a huge defeat.” He said May must work with MPs to establish a way forward that they can all live with, and if not, return the issue to a national vote.

In Brussels, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said the deal was “the only and best agreement possible”.

“Now is the moment for everyone to take their responsibilities,” he told a committee of regional representatives.

Published in Dawn, December 7th, 2018

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