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30th Jan 2019

It took the EU six minutes to reject MPs’ calls to scrap the backstop

Nothing like negotiating in good faith

Oli Dugmore

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 29: Theresa May is seen leaving the Houses of Parliament in Westminster on January 29, 2019 in London, England. MPs have voted on seven amendments to the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal including those from Dominic Grieve, Yvette Cooper and Graham Brady. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images) backstop

Nothing like negotiating in good faith

It took the EU less than 10 minutes to reject a vote in the House of Commons calling for “alternative arrangements” to the Irish backstop.

MPs supported the so-called Brady amendment late last night by 317 votes to 301, as the government saw off challenges by Remainers to delay the Article 50 process.

Within six minutes of the result being announced, an EU spokesperson from the European Council said the backstop was “part of the withdrawal agreement, and the withdrawal agreement is not open for renegotiation.

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - DECEMBER 14: President of the European Council Donald Tusk listens during the final press conference of the European Council Meeting on December 14, 2018 in Brussels, Belgium. Mrs May returned to the EU summit to secure greater assurances on the temporary nature of the Irish Backstop, in turn hoping to persuade MPs to vote her Brexit Deal through Parliament in the coming weeks.(Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images,) EU

“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. The December European Council conclusions are very clear on this point.”

You’d be forgiven for wondering why MPs believe they can revisit the withdrawal agreement at all, especially when you consider Theresa May’s remarks less than two months ago on December 4, when she told the Commons the withdrawal agreement “cannot be re-opened.”

As such, the EU requested the UK “clarify” its intentions “as soon as possible” and said a “reasoned request” to extend Article 50 would be considered.

Brexiteers may be surprised to hear this kind of response from Brussels, particularly Dominic Raab, who said last night he expected the EU to “blink at the 11th hour.”