Wed, May 02, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Lords make ‘no-deal’ Brexit less likely

IN OR OUT?The Upper House voted 335 to 244 for an amendment that gives MPs the final say on the outcome of Brexit talks with Brussels, including an option to stay

AFP, LONDON

Britain’s House of Lords on Monday voted to give parliament the right to block a “no-deal” Brexit as European Chief Negotiator for the UK Exiting the EU Michel Barnier said that negotiations with Britain were at risk over the Irish border issue.

The Lords voted 335 to 244 for an amendment to give lawmakers the final say on the outcome of Brexit talks with Brussels — including staying in the bloc if they do not like the final agreement, potentially postponing Britain’s departure from the EU.

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative government had previously indicated it would fight the motion when it returns to the House of Commons for debate in the coming weeks.

“What this amendment would do is weaken the UK’s hand in our Brexit negotiations by giving parliament unprecedented powers to instruct the government to do anything with regard to the negotiations, including trying to keep the UK in the EU indefinitely,” her spokesman said.

The government has promised MPs and peers they will be able to vote on the Brexit deal, which it hopes to strike in October, ahead of Britain’s planned departure from the EU in March next year.

However, if parliament rejects it, the only current alternative is to crash out with no deal.

Former Conservative Party leader Michael Howard warned that the amendment “could and very probably would lead to not one, but several constitutional crises.”

May is already under pressure to come up with a solution to prevent a post-Brexit “hard” border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, with Barnier warning her on Monday that the clock was ticking.

At a press conference during his visit to Ireland, Barnier called for a “clear and operational solution for Ireland” to be included in the Brexit deal, adding: “Until we reach this agreement, there is a risk.”

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said that Britain’s “approach to negotiations will need to change in some way” if there is to be agreement over the issue.

London has committed to avoiding a border with checkpoints between Northern Ireland, part of the UK, and EU-member Ireland, which all sides agree is vital to maintaining the 1998 Good Friday peace accords.

However, Britain has also said it will not enter into a customs union with the EU post-Brexit, and has been urged to find a solution to reconcile the two positions.

The EU has suggested a “backstop” proposal, in which only Northern Ireland would stay in a customs union with the EU post-Brexit.

“We need to agree rapidly by June on several new points, on the scope of alignment, customs and regulations,” Barnier said.

Britain wants to be free of the EU customs union to be able to strike trade deals with the rest of the world post-Brexit.

Barnier rejected claims that the backstop solution threatened Britain’s sovereign integrity following criticism from Arlene Foster, head of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party.

Foster on Monday said that Barnier’s “proposal of us being in an all-Ireland regulatory scenario with a border down the Irish Sea simply does not work. It does not work constitutionally, politically and it certainly does not work from an economic perspective.”

Barnier acknowledged the backstop proposal was “the subject of heated discussions in the UK,” and said there were “three points to avoid any misunderstandings.”

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