The two quotes that sum up the Brexit chaos

Andy Wells
Freelance Writer

Yesterday saw some success for Theresa May in the Commons for a change – but a Brexit end point is far from guaranteed.

In a dramatic night of votes in the Commons, MPs supported a proposal endorsed by the Prime Minister to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement and replace the backstop with ‘alternative arrangements’ to avoid a hard border in Ireland.

Despite this victory the Prime Minister is still facing an uphill battle with the EU.

Almost immediately after securing a House of Commons majority, the EU immediately slammed the door shut on any prospect of Mrs May reopening the Brexit talks around the backstop.

It was a good night for Theresa May as MPs came to a consensus on Brexit (PA)
The Brady amendment won support from Leave and Remain supporting Tories (PA)

And if there are two statements that sum up the current chasm between the UK and the EU, it is these:

A hopeful Mrs May told the Commons: ‘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.

‘As I said this afternoon, there is limited appetite for such a change in the EU and negotiating it will not be easy. But in contrast to a fortnight ago, this House has made it clear what it needs to approve a Withdrawal Agreement.’

Less than 10 minutes later, European Council president Donald Tusk’s spokesman said: ‘We welcome and share the UK Parliament’s ambition to avoid a no-deal scenario.

‘We continue to urge the UK government to clarify its intentions with respect to its next steps as soon as possible.

‘The Withdrawal Agreement is and remains the best and only way to ensure an orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union.

‘The backstop is part of the Withdrawal Agreement, and the Withdrawal Agreement is not open for re-negotiation.’


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The EU has signalled that they will not negotiate any further (Getty)

What does this mean for the PM?

Despite winning support from both Tory Leavers and Remainers, the EU has all but put a stop to any positive movement in the Brexit deadlock.

By signalling it is not prepared to renegotiate, Mrs May is essentially in the same position she was in before the amendment votes.

Meanwhile, the European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator, Guy Verhofstadt, said there was ‘no majority to re-open or dilute’ the agreement.

The Prime Minister is hoping to talk the EU round (PA)

French Europe minister Nathalie Loiseau stressed the Withdrawal Agreement would not be reopened.

She said: “The Withdrawal Agreement that is on the table is the best possible agreement. Let us not reopen it.”

Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar further reiterated that the backstop could not be renegotiated, and was back up by German foreign minister Heiko Maas.

However the vote has put pressure on EU leaders as they will now be seen as refusing to budge even though Parliament has finally come to a majority on an arrangement.

This potentially changes the narrative to one of a rigid and dismissive EU who refuse to make concessions so that a no deal Brexit can be avoided.

Boris Johnson said: ‘It takes two to tango. There is a negotiation going on, you would expect him to say that.

MPs voted on a series of amendments on Tuesday night (PA)

Tuesday’s votes were triggered by the overwhelming defeat of Mrs May’s Brexit Plan A by 230 votes earlier this month.

Labour backbencher Yvette Coopers attempt at delaying Brexit became far less likely after MP rejected her proposal to extend Article 50 if Mrs May was unable to secure an acceptable agreement by February 26.

With the EU having to significantly change their stance on reopening the Withdrawal Agreement the chances of a no deal Brexit are looking as likely as ever.

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