May seeks to break Brexit deadlock with ‘Plan B’

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London, Jan 21 (IANS) UK Prime Minister Theresa May is set to present her Brexit Plan-B on Monday in a desperate attempt to overturn last week’s humiliating Commons defeat and convince Tory Brexiteers to support her withdrawal deal with the EU.

May will address the House of Commons, explaining how she intends to proceed and achieve a majority for her Brexit withdrawal agreement. She will also hold talks with MPs, business leaders and trade unionists in order to find a way forward, the BBC reported.

There were reports that she could fly out to Brussels for talks later in the evening.

The Prime Minister, in her address, will focus on winning over Tory Brexiteers and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), a right-wing unionist party from Northern Ireland and ally of the Conservative government, by pressing for changes on the controversial Northern Ireland backstop.

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The backstop is the “insurance policy” in the withdrawal deal, intended to ensure that whatever else happens, there will be no return to a physical border between Northern Ireland (a UK territory) and the Irish Republic (an EU member state) after the UK leaves the EU.

Both the UK and the EU believe that bringing back border checks could put the peace process at risk, but a way of avoiding those checks has yet to win over MPs.

May had earlier pointed to assurances from the EU that the backstop would only be temporary and, if triggered, would last for “the shortest possible period”.

Her government agreed a withdrawal deal with the EU in November — covering topics such as the “divorce bill” and the Irish border — but it was rejected by MPs by a majority of 230 votes. Later, May narrowly survived a no-confidence motion.

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If Parliament doesn’t approve a withdrawal agreement, the UK is due to leave the EU on March 29 without a deal or transition period.

The Prime Minister on Monday will also table a “neutral” motion, saying that the Commons considered her statement, which will be debated and voted upon on January 29.

This motion was expected to attract amendments from groups of backbenchers seeking more of a say in the process.

May had invited opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn to cross-party talks on Brexit after she survived the no-trust vote last week. But he said he would only enter cross-party talks if she took the possibility of a no-deal Brexit off the table.

Labour’s position since May’s withdrawal agreement was rejected by the Commons is to seek a general election — if that fails they would consider backing a second referendum, the BBC said.

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Corbyn previously said Labour wanted a customs union with the EU, tariff-free access to the single market and an EU-level of employment rights to be included in any Brexit agreement.

–IANS

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