Brexit: MPs urged not to be ‘purist’ about backstop

MPs should not be “purist” about how Theresa May secures changes to the Brexit backstop arrangement, the leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom, has said.

British prime minister Theresa May will tell MPs on Tuesday they must hold their nerve over Brexit to force the European Union to accept changes to the deal that would pave the way for an orderly exit.

The United Kingdom is on course to leave the European Union on March 29th without a deal unless May can convince the bloc to amend the divorce deal she agreed in November and then sell it to sceptical British lawmakers.

Ms Leadsom, said MPs would back May’s deal if there were assurances the backstop was time-limited or the UK was allowed to leave it unilaterally, suggesting the deal itself did not need to be renegotiated.

“The point is to ensure the UK cannot be held in a backstop permanently, how it’s achieved is not something to be purist about,” Ms Leadsom told BBC radio.

Mrs May will tell parliament’s House of Commons on Tuesday “The talks are at a crucial stage,” according to remarks supplied by her Downing Street office. “We now all need to hold our nerve to get the changes this House has required and deliver Brexit on time.

MPs overwhelmingly rejected May’s withdrawal deal last month, with the major sticking point being the Irish backstop’- an insurance policy to prevent the return of a hard border on the island of Ireland.

“By getting the changes we need to the backstop; by protecting and enhancing workers’ rights and environmental protections; and by enhancing the role of parliament in the next phase of negotiations I believe we can reach a deal that this House can support,” Mrs May will say.

EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said on Monday the bloc would agree to tweak the political declaration on EU-UK ties after Brexit that forms part of the package, to reflect a plan for a closer future relationship that could obviate the need for the contentious backstop.

It’s clear from our side that we are not going to reopen the withdrawal agreement but we will continue our discussion in the coming days,” Barnier said.

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