British lawmakers on Tuesday instructed Prime Minister Theresa May to demand that Brussels replace the Irish border arrangement known as the “backstop”, in a last-ditch attempt to renegotiate an exit treaty that the European Union says it will not change. The amendment, put forward by influential Conservative lawmaker Graham Brady, passed by 317 votes to 301, and is intended to strengthen May’s hand when she returns to Brussels to try to renegotiate - something the EU again ruled out within minutes of the vote.
“Tonight, a majority of honourable members have said they would support a deal with changes to the backstop,” May said, only two weeks after her divorce deal was crushed in the biggest parliamentary defeat in modern British history. “It is now clear that there is a route that can secure a substantial and sustainable majority in the house for leaving the EU with a deal,” May said, adding she would seek “legally binding changes”.
Speaking immediately after the vote in the British parliament, a spokesman for European Council President Donald Tusk said the backstop was part of the withdrawal deal and was not up for negotiation. Lawmakers rejected two amendments setting out a path for parliament to prevent a no-deal exit if May cannot get a deal passed next month. However, they did later approve a symbolic proposal calling on the government to stop a potentially disorderly no-deal exit.
It sends a signal that parliament as a whole opposes leaving the EU without a negotiated agreement, which will happen by default on March 29 if no alternative is agreed, but does not compel the government to prevent such a departure or provide a mechanism for doing so.
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