MPs have backed an amendment to support Theresa May’s Brexit withdrawal agreement if ‘alternative arrangements’ can be found to replace the backstop.
The amendment from Tory MP Graham Brady was passed by 317 votes to 301.
However no sooner had the vote been taken than a spokesperson for European Council President Donald Tusk said the agreement is ‘not open for renegotiation’.
Desire to avoid no-deal
MPs also voted tonight in favour of an amendment to avoid a no-deal Brexit.
The amendment, tabled by Tory Caroline Spelman and Labour’s Jack Dromey, says Britain should not leave the EU without a withdrawal agreement.
The non-binding amendment passed by 318 votes to 310.
Backstop was agreed by UK/EU as the insurance policy to avoid a hard border in all scenarios. We hope it will never be used, or be replaced quickly by a future relationship agreement. But it is necessary and tonight’s developments at Westminster do nothing to change this. #Brexit
— Simon Coveney (@simoncoveney) January 29, 2019
The other five other amendments MPs were voting on – including one from Labour’s Yvette Cooper to extend Article 50 if no deal is agreed by February 26 – were defeated.
The results indicate MPs want to avoid a no-deal Brexit but want changes made to the backstop before passing the withdrawal agreement.
The Prime Minister will see the passing of Brady’s amendment as a mandate to return to the EU and demand renegotiations aimed at changing the backstop.
EU not for budging
However Brussels once again reiterated it has no plans to change the deal, with a spokesperson for Tusk saying tonight: “The withdrawal agreement 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 renegotiation. The December European Council Conclusions are very clear on this.”
The statement said that Brussels was open to extending Article 50 but for now it remained focused on preparing for any possibility, including no deal.
“We will continue our preparations for all outcomes, including a no-deal scenario. We will also continue the EU’s process of ratification of the agreement reached with the UK government.”