Possibly in her final attempt, UK Prime Minister Theresa May tries to win the parliamentary approval of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement with a “bold new plan”. While the most eye-catching ingredient is a green light of a second referendum, the remainder of the plan was made by cobbling together previous promises and/ or works that government has already been doing. What is worse is that the new plan could drive away previous Tory supporters but fails to attract new supporters. As such, PM May is doomed to lose in her fourth, and last, attempt to get a deal.

The 10-Point Offers

  1. The Government will seek to conclude Alternative Arrangements to replace the backstop by December 2020, so that it never needs to be used

Not New– Recall that PM May in March secured legal binding changes in the deal. The changes included: First, a “joint legally binding instrument” was included, allowing the UK to start a “formal dispute” against the EU if it tried to keep the UK tied into the backstop indefinitely. Second, there was a UK-EU “joint statement” added to the political declaration, pledging to replace the backstop with alternative arrangements by December 2020. Third, the UK released a “unilateral declaration”, outlining the UK’s position that it would choose to leave the backstop arrangement if negotiations with the EU on future relationships break down. Yet, these failed to win over the majority of the MPs as attorney general Geoffrey Cox suggested the UK still would risk struck in the Irish backstop indefinitely.

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This time, PM May suggests that the UK Government would be under a legal obligation to conclude alternative arrangements to replace the backstop by December 2020, so that it never needs to be used. These legal obligations, notwithstanding its acceptance in the UK, could be rejected by the EU as sufficient conditions to avoid a backstop. In short, there still lacks compromise on the Irish border issue.

2. A commitment that, should the backstop come into force, the Government will ensure that Great Britain will stay aligned with Northern Ireland. PM May added in her speech that the government would deliver on the “commitments to Northern Ireland in the December 2017 Joint Report in full” and “implement paragraph 50 of the Joint Report in law”. Moreover, “the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive will have to give their consent on a cross-community basis for new regulations which are added to the backstop”.

Not New- These guarantees have been offered in January

3. The negotiating objectives and final treaties for our future relationship with the EU will have to be approved by MPs. According to PM May, “the new Brexit deal will set out in law that the House of Commons will approve the UK’s objectives for the negotiations on our future relationship with the EU and they will approve the treaties governing that relationship before the Government signs them”.

Not New– PM May promised that the parliament would have a bigger role in phase 2 of the negotiations. Meanwhile, back in March, the government has accepted a proposal by Labors, namely the Nandy/ Snell amendment, that calls for greater influence by the parliament in Brexit negotiations.

4. New Workers’ Rights Bill that guarantees workers’ rights will be no less favourable than in the EU. PM May suggested that there will be “a new Workers’ Rights Bill that guarantees workers’ rights will be no less favourable than in the EU”

Depends on the details

5. There will be no change in the level of environmental protection when we leave the EU. the government “will establish a new independent Office of Environmental Protection to uphold the highest environmental standards and enforce compliance”.

Partly NEW– The government has already committed to an Office of Environmental. There might be something new regarding the environmental protection provisions, though.

6. The UK will seek as close to frictionless trade in goods with the EU as possible while outside the single market and ending free movement.

Not New- the EU criticized this idea as “cherry-picking”

7. We will keep up to date with EU rules for goods and agri-food products that are relevant to checks at border protecting the thousands of jobs that depend on just-in-time supply chains.

Not New- the EU criticized this idea as “cherry-picking”

8. the Government will bring forward a customs compromise for MPs to decide on to break the deadlock.

Partly New

9. There will be a vote for MPs on whether the deal should be subject to a referendum.

NEW- Yet, this will happen ONLY when the deal with approved. PM May is trying to hold this fourth vote on her deal in the form of a bill which will undergo first and second readings. These would be followed by the committee stage where amendments are added and then these are voted on in the third reading. There will only be a vote on the second referendum issue of both the first and second readings are approved.

10. There will be a legal duty to secure changes to the political declaration to reflect this new deal.


More Harm than Good

Both DUP and Labors have already rejected the proposal. DUP described the new deal as having “fatal flaws”. For Labors, there is still no certainty of a permanent customs union even after they vote for the deal in second reading. MPs in Brexit camp voted for the deal previously amidst concerns that the chance of Brexit might disappear if they had not supported a deal. These MPs would likely reject the new deal as a second referendum which might eventually lead to no Brexit.


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