Published: Thu, March 14, 2019
Worldwide | By Jermaine Blake

Brexit backstop legal risk 'unchanged': UK's Cox

Brexit backstop legal risk 'unchanged': UK's Cox

Leader o the opposition Jeremy Corbyn said: "This evening's agreement with the European Commission does not contain anything approaching the changes Theresa May promised Parliament, and whipped her MPs to vote for".

At a joint news conference, May and Juncker claimed to have succeeded.

But Attorney General Geoffrey Cox said in a written opinion the assurances left the legal risk of the United Kingdom being locked in the bloc's orbit after Brexit, the most controversial issue for Brexit-supporting lawmakers.

Other EU nations had urged British politicians to seize the chance to back the deal and ensure an orderly departure. It is what you do with this second chance that counts.

The defeat came after May and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker announced changes Monday created to overcome lawmakers' concerns about provisions created to ensure the border between EU member Ireland and Britain's Northern Ireland remains open after Brexit.

The two sides have also published a "joint statement" which commits to replacing the backstop with "alternative arrangements" by the end of December 2020.

Brexit supporters fear that the backstop could last indefinitely, tying Britain to the European Union even after it has formally left the bloc - in effect, defeating one of the main purposes of leaving in the first place.

Ireland's Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: "The further text agreed yesterday provided additional clarity, reassurance and guarantees sought by some to eliminate doubts or fears of some, however unreal, that the goal was to trap the United Kingdom indefinitely in the backstop". But the changes appear to fall well short of Brexiteers' demands for a unilateral British exit mechanism from the backstop.

Currency traders fear that the attorney general's advice means Theresa May's revised Brexit deal is less likely to be accepted by pro-Brexit MPs.

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"These improvements do make a difference", Cox later told the House of Commons, telling lawmakers that whether to back the deal was "a political decision each of us must make". And Juncker warned Britain "there will be no new negotiations" if lawmakers reject the deal again.

"If there is no support for the Withdrawal Agreement tomorrow, perhaps there is no support for Brexit at all", he suggested, implicitly warning Brexiteer dreams may be thwarted by pro-Europeans in parliament.

Brexit will pitch the world's fifth largest economy into the unknown and many fear it will divide the West as it grapples with both the unconventional USA presidency of Donald Trump and growing assertiveness from Russian Federation and China.

Arriving in Bucharest, most EU European affairs ministers were upbeat about the deal which will be voted upon by the United Kingdom parliament Tuesday night.

"Nothing has really changed, and it is still a bad deal so unable to vote for this".

However, she sounded a note of caution, noting that the pound remains the best performing G10 currency so far this year. It is irritated, too, that Britain is seeking changes to an agreement that May herself helped negotiate and approve.

"Today is the day", Downing Street quoted May as telling her Cabinet.

Britain could not unilaterally pull out - something that caused Brexit-backing MPs to vote down the deal in January. "I think no deal is going to be very disruptive for the economy and I think no deal also has serious questions for the union", Barclay said.

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