May told to ‘crack on’ with Brexit negotiations


City policy chief Catherine McGuinness has called on Theresa May to “crack on” with Brexit after MPs voted in favour of replacing the backstop.

But that could prove tricky after European Council president Donald Tusk insisted the existing deal could not be altered.

He said: “The backstop is part of the withdrawal agreement, and the withdrawal agreement is not open for renegotiation.”

In November 2018, Mrs May agreed a proposal that would see Northern Ireland conforming to some EU single market regulations if another solution cannot be found by the end of the transition period – currently set for December 2020.

The proposal, which included the creation of a temporary single custom territory, was a factor in Mrs May’s overall Brexit deal being voted down in the biggest defeat for a sitting government in history (432-202).

Negotiators on both sides have expressed their intention to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

Mrs May said the latest round of voting had defined a route to leaving the EU.

She said: “A fortnight ago, this House clearly rejected the proposed Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration with just 202 members voting in favour.

“Tonight (29 January) a majority (317-301) have said they would support a deal with changes to the backstop.

“Combined with measures to address concerns over Parliament’s role in the negotiation of the future relationship and commitments on workers’ rights, in law where need be, it is now clear that there is a route that can secure a substantial and sustainable majority in this House for leaving the EU with a deal.

“We will now take this mandate forward and seek to obtain legally binding changes to the Withdrawal Agreement that deal with concerns on the backstop while guaranteeing no return to a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

“My colleagues and I will talk to the EU about how we address the House’s views.”

MPs voted on a raft of amendments to government’s Brexit deal, and the Prime Minister is now expected to return to the negotiating table.

Ms McGuinness said she wanted to see progress on the current impasse.

She said: “Parliament’s majority last night against the UK crashing out of the European Union without a deal is a welcome signal of intent, as a no-deal Brexit would be a hugely damaging outcome for businesses and households on both sides of the Channel.

“We now need to crack on and renegotiate a withdrawal deal with the EU27 which Parliament can get behind in order to put an end to the current Brexit impasse.

“City firms need certainty about our future relationship with the EU in order to invest and create jobs across the UK. Locking in a legally binding transition period as part of a deal is vital to give the sector time to work through this complex process.

“In the meantime, it is critical that EU regulators urgently address cliff-edge issues such as contract continuity and data flows.

“These are issues that could disrupt cross-border financial services and prevent firms from serving their customers in the event of a no deal.”

Main image George Hoden (Creative Commons).