UK ministers will today resume efforts to secure changes to the backstop in Theresa May’s Brexit deal in the hopes that they will get backing from MPs in a vote in a week.
Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay and Attorney General Geoffrey Cox will meet EU officials in Brussels in search of guarantees over the backstop plan to avoid border checks in Ireland.
MPs are due to vote on the deal for a second time on 12th March, and the UK is due to leave the EU on 29th March.
If MPs reject the withdrawal agreement for a second time, they will have the opportunity to vote on whether to go ahead with Brexit in just over three weeks’ time without any kind of negotiated deal.
If they decide against, they will then have a vote on whether to extend negotiations and push the date of departure back by several months.
Scottish and Welsh politicians are joining forces in an attempt to force the prime minister to change her position on Brexit. For the first time since devolution 20 years ago, they will debate the same motion, at the same time.
Leading Brexiteers are hoping Cox will be able to change his legal advice to satisfy them that the backstop – a controversial plan which will see the UK aligned with EU customs rules until the two sides’ future relationship is agreed or alternative arrangements worked out – will not endure indefinitely.
Cox took to Twitter on Monday after newspaper reports suggested he had turned his attention away from the concrete “freedom clause” demanded by many MPs to assurances that the backstop would fall away if talks on a future relationship break down.
Meanwhile, an identical motion will be debated simultaneously by the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly on Tuesday evening – with co-ordinated votes. The vote will underline opposition to Mrs May’s deal, demand a delay to Brexit and call for “no deal” to be ruled out.