LONDON – The United Kingdom’s Prime Minister Theresa May presented on Monday her Plan B Brexit proposal to lawmakers, which appeared to be a minor revision of the initial deal which had been previously rejected overwhelmingly by lawmakers in a vote.
May sought to woo MPs in the House of Commons, the UK’s lower chamber of parliament, in a bid an exit to the deadlock over the terms and conditions of UK’s withdrawal from the European Union that her minority Conservative Party government had agreed with Brussels by offering minor concessions to her original plan.
“It is Government’s responsibility to negotiates, but it is also my responsibility to listen to the legitimate concerns of colleagues. Both those who voted leave and who voted remain, in shaping out negotiating mandate for our future partnership with the EU,” May told the House.
It was a conciliatory note that accompanied a handful of concessions in her revised Brexit plan, which included a decision to abolish the controversial 65-pound ($83) administration fee for EU nationals applying for settled status, a move likely to be welcomed in Brussels.
She also said she would take the issue of the Irish backstop, an insurance policy to maintain a soft Irish border should future talks fail, back to the EU.
Brexit supporters in her own ranks, and in her confidence and supply partners the DUP, a Northern Irish party, have expressed two main concerns about the backstop.
First, some fear the region could be kept in regulatory alignment with the EU and therefore be subject to a different customs regime than the rest of the UK and a second is that the legal text underpinning the measure lacks an expiration date, meaning it could technically be indefinite.
However, May stuck by some of her initial red lines in the agreement, including a refusal to rule out a no deal scenario, which she said could be achieved if parliament approves her plan when it is again put to a vote on Jan. 29.
“The only other guaranteed way to avoid a no deal Brexit is to revoke Article 50 – which would mean staying in the EU,” she said, referencing Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which she triggered in 2017 to officially notify the EU of the UK’s intention to leave.
She once again ruled out a second referendum, which was gaining support among some MPs in the Commons.
The question of the Irish border, whose open status is enshrined by the 1998 Good Friday peace deal that spelled the end of a decades-long civil conflict between Irish nationalists and Unionists, shot back into the media spotlight over the weekend when a car-bomb attack allegedly carried out by members of the New IRA, an offshoot of the Irish Republican Army – a terror group that fought for a unified Ireland during the conflict, hit the city of Derry, located on the Northern Irish/Irish border.
The Commons unanimously condemned the attack on Monday.
The UK is set to leave the EU on March 29, exactly two years after May triggered Article 50.
UK voters chose to leave the bloc in a 2016 referendum.