EU advises British PM Theresa May ahead of key Brexit vote

Ahead of a long-awaited vote, the European Union has sent a letter to British Prime Minister Thersa May, saying a new customs and border deal would be temporary.

Brexit protesters demonstrate outside Britain's Houses of Parliament in London on January 10. Photo by Hugo Philpott
Brexit protesters demonstrate outside Britain’s Houses of Parliament in London on January 10. Photo by Hugo Philpott

The EU’s assurance means Britain’s border with Northern Ireland, the backstop, would remain open until a permanent deal is reached, the letter from European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Council President Donald Tusk states.
“The European Council also said that, if the backstop were nevertheless to be triggered, it would only apply temporarily, unless and until it is superseded by a subsequent agreement that ensures that a hard border is avoided,” the letter said.

May’s Brexit deal could be defeated Tuesday, as the House of Commons is expected to vote overwhelmingly against it.
Labor Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer said May has “failed to deliver” on her promises for Brexit.

“This is a long way from the significant and legally effective commitment the prime minister promised last month,” Starmer said. “It is a reiteration of the EU’s existing position. Once again, nothing has changed.”

May said the EU letter has “legal force” and makes it “absolutely clear that the backstop is not a threat or a trap.”
She called on lawmakers to back the deal or risk having no Brexit agreement at all — and reiterated that citizens voted two years ago to leave the alliance, and a failure to follow through would mean ignoring their wishes.

An amendment from Labor Party lawmaker Hilary Benn would reject’s May’s deal, prevent a no-deal departure and allow Parliament to decide the next step.

If 40 lawmakers reject the deal, May could try again. If 80 or more say no, her future as prime minister could be in jeopardy. Some have called for a second public referendum.

ByNicholas Sakelaris