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Brexit next steps – Commons Vote 14 February 2019

Parliament debated a motion on the 14 February 2019, put forward by the Government, asking for the continued support of the House in negotiating the UK’s exit from the EU.

That this House welcomes the Prime Minister’s statement of 12 February 2019; reiterates its support for the approach to leaving the EU expressed by this House on 29 January 2019 and notes that discussions between the UK and the EU on the Northern Ireland backstop are ongoing.

Three amendments were selected:

(a) in the name of the Leader of the Opposition, the right hon. Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn);

Amendment proposed: (a), in line 1, leave out from “House” to end and add

“requires by 27 February 2019 a Minister of the Crown either (a) to move another motion under Section 13(1)(b) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 or (b) to make a written statement declaring that there is no longer an agreement in principle in the negotiations with the European Union and to move no later than that date an amendable motion on how the Government proposes to proceed.”.—(Jeremy Corbyn.)

(i) in the name of the right hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Ian Blackford);

Amendment proposed: (i), in line 1, leave out from “House” to end and add

“requires that a Minister of the Crown immediately begin negotiations with the European Council to extend the period specified under Article 50(3) of the Treaty on European Union by no fewer than three months from 29 March 2019, and bring forward an appropriate amendment to section 20 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 to facilitate this change.”.—(Ian Blackford.)

(e) in the name of the right hon. Member for Broxtowe (Anna Soubry).

would have required the Government to publish its most recent no-deal briefing documents. After the Government offered to release pertinent documentation in consultation with the MPs tabling the motion, the amendment was withdrawn.

Following debate, the following votes were recorded

Amendment (a): For 306, Against 322

Amendment (i): For 93, Against 315

Amendment (e): not voted on

The motion was put to a vote: For 258, Against 303 defeating the motion raised by the Government.

243 Conservative MPs voted with the Government, 5 against the Government and the rest abstaining.

Brexit – Round up of recent comment from the EU

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Tweets from Donald Tusk

Jan 20

My message to PM @theresa_may: The EU position is clear and consistent. The Withdrawal Agreement is not open for renegotiation. Yesterday, we found out what the UK doesn’t want. But we still don’t know what the UK does want. #brexit

Feb 6

I’ve been wondering what that special place in hell looks like, for those who promoted #Brexit, without even a sketch of a plan how to carry it out safely.

Feb 6

Today our most important task is to prevent a no deal #Brexit. I hope that tomorrow we will hear from PM @theresa_may a realistic suggestion on how to end the impasse. http://goo.gl/2DJGJr

Feb 7

Meeting PM @theresa_may on how to overcome impasse on #brexit. Still no breakthrough in sight. Talks will continue.

Feb 13

No news is not always good news. EU27 still waiting for concrete, realistic proposals from London on how to break #Brexit impasse.

Statement by Donald Tusk after his meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on the 6 February

There are 50 days left until the UK’s exit from the European Union, following the decision and the will of the UK authorities. I know that still a very great number of people in the UK, and on the continent, as well as in Ireland, wish for a reversal of this decision. I have always been with you, with all my heart. But the facts are unmistakable. At the moment, the pro-Brexit stance of the UK Prime Minister, and the Leader of the Opposition, rules out this question. Today, there is no political force and no effective leadership for remain. I say this without satisfaction, but you can’t argue with the facts.

Today our most important task is to prevent a no deal scenario. I would, once again, like to stress that the position of the EU27 is clear, as expressed in the documents agreed with the UK government – that is the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration – and the EU27 is not making any new offer. Let me recall that the December European Council decided that the Withdrawal Agreement is not open for re-negotiation. I hope that tomorrow we will hear from Prime Minister May a realistic suggestion on how to end the impasse, in which the process of the orderly withdrawal of the UK from the EU has found itself, following the latest votes in the House of Commons.

The top priority for us, remains the issue of the border on the island of Ireland, and the guarantee to maintain the peace process in accordance with the Good Friday Agreement. There is no room for speculation here. The EU itself is first and foremost a peace project. We will not gamble with peace; or put a sell-by date on reconciliation. And this is why we insist on the backstop. Give us a believable guarantee for peace in Northern Ireland, and the UK will leave the EU as a trusted friend. I hope that the UK government will present ideas that will both respect this point of view and, at the same time, command a stable and clear majority in the House of Commons. I strongly believe that a common solution is possible, and I will do everything in my power to find it.

A sense of responsibility also tells us to prepare for a possible fiasco. The Taoiseach and I have spoken about the necessary actions in case of no deal; I know that you will also be discussing this shortly with the European Commission.

By the way, I’ve been wondering what that special place in hell looks like, for those who promoted Brexit, without even a sketch of a plan how to carry it out safely. Thank you.

Joint statement by President Jean-Claude Juncker and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar 6 February 2019

The Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration have been negotiated in good faith and have been agreed by all 27 Leaders of the European Union Member States as well as by the United Kingdom Government.

As we have said on many occasions, the Withdrawal Agreement is the best and only deal possible. It is not open for renegotiation.

The backstop is an integral part of the Withdrawal Agreement. While we hope the backstop will not need to be used, it is a necessary legal guarantee to protect peace and to ensure there will be no return to a hard border on the island of Ireland, while protecting the integrity of our Single Market and the Customs Union.

The Withdrawal Agreement, including the backstop, is a balanced compromise, representing a good outcome for citizens and businesses on all sides, including in Northern Ireland.

The backstop is not a bilateral issue, but a European one. Ireland’s border is also the border of the European Union and its market is part of the Single Market. We will stay united on this matter.

We will continue to seek agreement on the orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom but we will also step up our preparation for a no-deal scenario. In this context, programmes that provide support for cross-border peace and reconciliation in the border counties of Ireland and Northern Ireland will be continued and strengthened. The Commission stands ready to support Ireland in finding solutions answering the specific challenges that Ireland and Irish citizens, farmers and businesses will face. We will work closely together to this end over the coming weeks.

We will continue to remind the Government of the United Kingdom of its responsibilities under the Good Friday Agreement, with or without a deal.

Tweets from Guy Verhofstadt

29 Jan

Welcome the UK Parliament’s decision to reject a no-deal & the hope of cross-party talks on future relationship. We stand by Ireland & the Good Friday Agreement. There is no majority to re-open or dilute the Withdrawal Agreement in the @Europarl_EN including the backstop.

30 Jan

PM May is coming back to Brussels. She is always welcome, especially in @Europarl_EN, but what for? A breakthrough is only possible if the UK’s red lines change. Mrs May’s mandate from the UK Parliament is against something, but there is no stable majority in favour of something.

30 Jan

Political instability in the UK makes it difficult to conclude a lasting deal & highlights why we need an “all weather” backstop. Mrs. May & Mr. Corbyn are meeting & I hope it will be more than just tea & biscuits. We need a broad stable majority, which puts country before party.

6 Feb

Today I see Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and tomorrow Prime Minister May. My message to the UK will be that it is not very responsible to try to get rid of a backstop that is meant as an ultimate safeguard to avoid a hard border and the return of violence on the Island of Ireland.

6 Feb

Successful meeting with @campaignforleo. I assured the Taoiseach that his Govt & the Irish people have the unequivocal support of @Europarl_EN. We will never abandon Ireland. We will never prioritise the wishes of a minority from a departing Member State over an EU Member State.

7 Feb

Open discussion w/ @theresa_may. Backstop non negotiable. We’ll never abandon Ireland. I welcome @jeremycorbyn letter making a cross-party approach for the first time possible. From the hell we’re in today, there is at last hope of a heavenly solution even if it won’t be Paradise

12 Feb

Despite meetings w/ UK reps, incl PM May, Lidington & Barclay I’m yet to hear of a proposal to break Brexit deadlock. I ask myself what are these negotiations at a “crucial state” raised in the HoC? The way forward is cross-party, not kicking the can towards a disastrous no deal.

PM’s statement to Parliament 12 February 2019

PM’s statement to the House of Commons on Brexit: 12 February 2019

With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the Government’s ongoing work to secure a Brexit deal that honours our commitments to the people of Northern Ireland, commands the support of Parliament and can be negotiated with the EU.

On 29th January, this House gave me a clear mandate and sent an unequivocal message to the European Union. Last week, I took that message to Brussels. I met President Juncker, President Tusk, and the President of European Parliament, Antonio Tajani and I told them clearly what Parliament wanted in order to unite behind a Withdrawal Agreement: namely, legally binding changes to the backstop.

And I explained to them the three ways in which this can be achieved.

First, the backstop could be replaced with alternative arrangements to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. Yesterday, my Rt Hon Friend the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union met with Michel Barnier to discuss the ideas put forward by the Alternative Arrangements Working Group comprised of a number of my Hon and Rt Hon Friends. I am grateful to that group for their work and we are continuing to explore their ideas.

Second, there could be a legally-binding time limit to the existing backstop.

Or third, there could be a legally-binding unilateral exit clause to that backstop.

Given both sides agree we do not ever want to use the backstop, and that if we did it would be temporary, we believe it is reasonable to ask for legally binding changes to this effect. Mr Speaker, as expected, President Juncker maintained the EU’s position that they will not reopen the Withdrawal Agreement. And I set out the UK’s position, strengthened by the mandate that this House gave me, that this House needs to see legally-binding changes to the backstop and that can be achieved by changes to the Withdrawal Agreement. We both agreed that our teams should hold further talks to find a way forward, and he and I will meet again before the end of February to take stock of those discussions.

So our work continues. The Secretary of State and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster are today in Strasbourg and last week the Attorney General was in Dublin to meet his Irish counterpart. And following my own visits to Brussels, Northern Ireland and Ireland last week, I welcomed the Prime Minister of Malta to Downing Street yesterday and I will be speaking to other EU 27 leaders today and throughout the week.

Statement by the Prime Minister and President Juncker 7 Feb 2019

Joint statement on behalf of the Prime Minister and President Juncker following a meeting in Brussels on 7 February 2019.

Prime Minister May and President Juncker have met today to review the next steps in the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

The talks were held in a spirit of working together to achieve the UK’s orderly withdrawal from the EU, especially in the context of a shared determination to achieve a strong partnership for the future given the global challenges the EU and the UK face together in upholding open and fair trade, cooperation in the fight against climate change and terrorism and defending the rules-based international system.

The Prime Minister described the context in the UK Parliament, and the motivation behind last week’s vote in the House of Commons seeking a legally binding change to the terms of the backstop. She raised various options for dealing with these concerns in the context of the Withdrawal Agreement in line with her commitments to the Parliament.

President Juncker underlined that the EU27 will not reopen the Withdrawal Agreement, which represents a carefully balanced compromise between the European Union and the UK, in which both sides have made significant concessions to arrive at a deal. President Juncker however expressed his openness to add wording to the Political Declaration agreed by the EU27 and the UK in order to be more ambitious in terms of content and speed when it comes to the future relationship between the European Union and the UK. President Juncker drew attention to the fact that any solution would have to be agreed by the European Parliament and the EU27.

The discussion was robust but constructive. Despite the challenges, the two leaders agreed that their teams should hold talks as to whether a way through can be found that would gain the broadest possible support in the UK Parliament and respect the guidelines agreed by the European Council. The Prime Minister and the President will meet again before the end of February to take stock of these discussions.

PM speech in Belfast: 5 February 2019

Here is the speech Prime Minister Theresa May gave in Belfast on 5 February 2019.

I’m pleased to be back in Belfast today, with under 8 weeks to go until the UK leaves the EU I recognise that this is a crucial time for Northern Ireland. And ensuring that the unique needs of this part of the UK are met has been one of my chief priorities ever since I became Prime Minister.

Any border that weaves its way through farms and villages, bisects hundreds of roads and lanes, and which is crossed and re-crossed by thousands of people every day would pose a logistical challenge in the context of Brexit. But when you add to those geographical factors Northern Ireland’s complex history, the different traditions and identities that make up its community, and the long path to peace that the people of Northern Ireland have walked over the last forty years, the challenge is even greater.

Over the last two and half years, we have come a long way towards a solution that works for Northern Ireland and Ireland. We have agreed mutual protections for citizens’ rights, the maintenance of our common travel area, and set a framework for our future relationship that ensures tariff and quota-free trade and protects our close co-operation on security and law enforcement. But the UK Parliament rejected the Withdrawal Agreement because of their concerns about the backstop, the legal protocol to prevent no hard border in the event our future relationship is not in place at the end of the implementation period.