British Prime Minister Theresa May has made a dramatic decision to abandon a pact she herself sealed with the 27 EU leaders at a summit last month, on which she hangs Brexit hopes after winning a mandate from lawmakers to try to renegotiate the deal - even if Brussels insists it will not budge, AFP reported on Wednesday January 30th. May's move came with Britain on course to crash out of the bloc in political and economic chaos on March 29th.
Late on Tuesday January 29th, MPs voted through an amendment, saying they would only support a divorce deal if its controversial "backstop" clause to keep the Irish border open was removed. However, spokesperson for the EU Council, President Donald Tusk, swiftly said the Brexit deal was "not open for renegotiation," while French President Emmanuel Macron said it was the "best agreement possible."
The MPs rejected the United Kingdom leaving the European Union without a withdrawal agreement. But they failed to vote through a more important plan - backed by European supporters - that would have tried to force through a Brexit delay if no new deal with the EU emerged by February 26th. "I agree that we should not leave without a deal. However, simply opposing no-deal is not enough to stop it," May told MPs. "The government will now redouble its efforts to get a deal that this house can support."
After the votes, opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn expressed his readiness to meet May to discuss a "sensible Brexit solution that works for the whole country." "After months of refusing to take the chaos of no-deal off the table, the prime minister must now face the reality that no-deal is not an option," he said.
A new challenge now faces May, as she has a mission to convince Brussels to re-open talks that took 18 excruciating months to conclude. She said parliament's approval of the backstop amendment gave her the "mandate" to "seek to obtain legally binding changes to the withdrawal agreement." However, she conceded that there was "limited appetite" in the EU for renegotiation.
Parliament on January 15th had voted against the draft deal by a crushing margin
that significantly raised the risk that Britain's departure without a plan on March 29th would create trade and economic disruption on both sides of the Channel.
Brexit hardliners from May's Conservative party think the backstop, created to keep the border open with Ireland, could see Britain indefinitely tied to EU trade rules.
The winning amendment calls for the backstop to be replaced with "alternative arrangements to avoid a hard border.”