After a disastrous vote in the House of Commons on her withdrawal agreement with the European Union, Theresa May presented her alternative Brexit plan to the members of Parliament on January 21.

May said that after hearing the concerns of Parliament, she is seeking to gain concessions from the EU on the controversial Northern Ireland “backstop,” or temporarily fluid border between EU-member Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. The backstop remains the most contentious issue of Brexit negotiations and faces opposition on all sides of Parliament.

"With regard to the backstop, despite the changes we have previously agreed, there remain two core issues: the fear that we could be trapped in it permanently; and concerns over its potential impact on our Union if Northern Ireland is treated differently from the rest of the UK,” said May, addressing the Parliament’s unease concerning the backstop. May is reportedly seeking a “sunset clause” from the EU for the backstop that would specify a legally-binding guarantee that the border is a temporary measure. The EU’s chief negotiator, however, rejected the sunset clause motion on January 21, calling the initial withdrawal agreement the “best deal possible.”

The alternative Brexit plan, along with May’s promise of further negotiations with the EU, are meant to prevent the UK from exiting the EU on March 29 with no deal in place. However, not all parties are convinced that May’s alternative plan is the best way forward.

Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn suggests that May’s call to compromise is disingenuous, saying, “Every opposition party politician came out of those meetings with the same response. Contrary to what the prime minister has just said, there was no flexibility; there were no negotiations; nothing had changed.” In response to her alternative deal, members of Parliament are poised to put forth amendments to her motion that could force the prime minister to extend the two-year Article 50 process, or invoke a second referendum that would allow UK citizens to vote whether or not to leave the EU once more. The amendments will be selected by the House of Commons speaker John Bercow and then put to a vote by members of Parliament on January 29.

 

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