News ID: 235588
Published: 0616 GMT December 10, 2018

May defers Brexit vote in parliament amid rows over ‘backstop’

May defers Brexit vote in parliament amid rows over ‘backstop’

British Prime Minister Theresa May has finally decided to postpone a crunch parliamentary vote on her European Union withdrawal agreement, saying she would seek further assurances from the EU over a controversial clause in the agreement which outlines contingencies for the future situation of border on the island of Ireland.

May told a rowdy session of the House of Commons on Monday that it was not possible for her government to put the Brexit deal to a vote on Tuesday, saying the thorny issue of the Irish border was causing the chamber to divide.

“If we went ahead and held the vote tomorrow the deal would be rejected by a significant margin,” May said in her address to the lawmakers, adding, “We will therefore defer the vote scheduled for tomorrow and not proceed to divide the House at this time.”

The British premier said she was hopeful EU leaders could accept her demands for more “assurances” and “reassurances” on the so-called backstop, a clause that would be triggered two years after Britain’s withdrawal from the EU in March if the two sides fail to reach a comprehensive agreement on future trade relationship, Presstv Reported.

Critics believe the backstop could tie the UK to EU indefinitely, as the bloc would include the British province of Northern Ireland in its customs union to prevent a return of hard border between the region and Ireland.

May said both the UK and the EU had no interest in triggering the backstop, which she said had become UK-wide as a result of her resistance to EU demands for having only Northern Ireland on its rulebook.

Both May and the EU have time and again said that the current draft deal, signed win Brussels last month, is the only and best option available for Brexit.

Brussels said again on Monday that there was no chance for a renegotiation while France said the political uncertainty over Brexit in London meant there was a high chance for a disorderly departure of Britain from the EU on March 29.

Responding to repeated questions from lawmakers on exactly when she would return to parliament with a changed version of the Brexit deal, May said she could not offer a date. The premier, however, said that she was well aware of a deadline set for January 21.

Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn criticized May's Brexit agreement a "botched deal" before adding that "our country deserves better than this."

"The government has lost control of events and is in complete disarray," Corbyn said Monday. "It's been evident for weeks that the prime minister's deal did not have confidence of this House yet she plowed on regardless, reiterating 'this is the only deal available.'"

May had been trying for weeks to win support for her Brexit deal. However, she did not appear to be having much success with a high number of her own Conservative Party MPs opposed to the plan.

In a tweet before May spoke, EU Parliament chief Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt expressed frustration at the prime minister’s decision to pull the parliamentary vote.

"This delay will further aggravate the uncertainty for people & businesses. It's time they make up their mind!" he wrote.

Earlier on Monday, the EU's top court ruled that the UK could unilaterally halt the formal process of leaving the bloc next year.

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