Brexit – last ditch efforts before key Westminster votes
In order to persuade Labour MPs to support Tuesday’s vote on the draft Withdrawal Agreement, the government is unveiling plans to boost workers’ rights by announcing an additional clause to be inserted into the EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill. The new provision would allow the House of Commons to vote on whether to opt in to future EU legislation in the area of workers’ rights. Should the Withdrawal Agreement fail to pass through the House of Commons next Tuesday, MPs will be asked to vote on whether to take the prospect of no-deal with the E.U. off the table. In the event of a no-deal Brexit being removed then the House of Commons will vote on extending Article 50.
In a last ditch effort to secure concessions on the controversial backstop, Geoffrey Cox, the attorney general, travelled to Brussels this week to seek legally binding changes. Last November the attorney general had given legal advice stating that the UK would be in a permanent customs union with the EU indefinitely should the backstop be activated in its current form. In order to make changes to his advice the EU and UK have been working on potential areas to provide the legally binding assurance sought by the UK. EU chief negotiator Michael Barnier has considered the possibility of adding an adjunct to the Withdrawal Agreement, which would allow for Cox to change his legal advice. However it is difficult to see how this would satisfy critics of the backstop in Westminster since the EU has been adamant in asserting that Withdrawal Agreement cannot be amended. While Attorney General Cox noted there were “strong views and robust exchanges”, unsurprisingly, no breakthrough was achieved.