London: British Prime Minister Theresa May was being urged by members of her Conservative Party on Monday to secure changes to the Northern Irish backstop from the EU as part of her Brexit proposal, a day before lawmakers vote on several amendments to the plan.
The Irish backstop, a measure created to ensure there is no return to a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland if future talks between London and Brussels collapse, has proved a sticking point in May’s bid to pass her withdrawal agreement.
Several back-bench colleagues have expressed opposition to its terms and conditions, mainly the eventuality that the UK would be tied to the EU indefinitely, Efe news reported.
Former Foreign Secretary and pro-Brexit lawmaker Boris Johnson urged his party leader to bag concessions from the EU to either guarantee an expiry date for the backstop or obtain powers to unilaterally withdraw from it.
He said that if May succeeded she would have “the whole country full-throatedly behind her”.
MPs were due to vote on a series of amendments on Tuesday, which included measures presented by members of the opposition Labour Party to rule out a no-deal Brexit and another from the Tory back-benches to fix a two-year limit to the backstop.
However, the EU has so far been unreceptive to such attempts to modify the withdrawal agreement, which was drawn up after two years of negotiations but voted down by a historic majority in the House of Commons earlier in the month.
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Simon Coveney warned against increasing dissonance between the British government and the EU, saying the bloc had already offered concessions in the withdrawal agreement.
He said that those who had come out in opposition of the backstop agreement in its current state had yet to proffer viable alternatives to avoid border infrastructure between the Irish Republic, which is an EU member state, and Northern Ireland, a UK territory.
“Don’t forget, Brexit is not an Irish policy, these are decisions being taken by the UK that are causing huge problems on our island, north and south, and there is an obligation on people to have pragmatic solutions here rather than wishful thinking.”
“The European Parliament will not ratify a withdrawal agreement that doesn’t have a backstop in it,” Coveney added.
The Democratic Unionist Party, a Northern Irish outfit that props up May’s minority government in the Commons, has threatened to block her plan if triggering the backstop meant keeping Northern Ireland in regulatory alignment with the Dublin, and thus the EU, but not the UK.
The UK is on track to the leave the EU on March 29. UK voters chose to leave the bloc with a slim 52-48 majority in a 2016 referendum.