By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal
LONDON (AA) – British Prime Minister Theresa May has asked MPs to “give this deal a second look” before tomorrow’s key vote on the withdrawal agreement reached with the EU.
May told the House of Commons on Monday evening that if the deal is agreed tomorrow, the U.K. and the EU will have almost two years to negotiate the final trade deal.
May said the EU would not agree to put a time limit on backstop -- a part of her Brexit deal, opposed by many members of the parliament.
The EU showed in a December council meeting its “determination to work speedily to establish by Dec. 31, 2020 alternative arrangements so that the backstop will not need to be triggered,” she said.
“They underlined that if the backstop were nevertheless to be triggered it would indeed apply temporarily,” she added.
May reiterated that the U.K. would never allow any return to a hard border in Ireland and she would not agree to extend the negotiations any further.
Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn said May has failed to get the legal assurances she promised and the House would vote exactly the same “botched” deal tomorrow.
He said the government is in disarray and if the deal is rejected tomorrow, it is time for a “general election and a new government".
Earlier on Monday, May welcomed new EU assurances over the impact of the deal on Northern Ireland, saying they had "legal force".
President of the European Council Donald Tusk and President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker stressed, in a letter that they will try to find technical solutions to the Irish border issue that would make the backstop redundant.
They said: “The European commission also shares your intentions for the future relationship to be in place as quickly as possible.
“Given our joint commitment to using best endeavours to conclude before the end of 2020 a subsequent agreement, which supersedes the protocol in whole or in part, the commission is determined to give priority in our work program to the discussion of proposals that might replace the backstop with alternative arrangements.
“In this context, facilitative arrangements and technologies will be considered.
“Any arrangements which supersede the protocol are not required to replicate its provisions in any respect, provided that the underlying objectives continue to be met.”
However, they said the withdrawal agreement can not be altered.
“We are not in a position to agree to anything that changes or is inconsistent with the withdrawal agreement,” they said.
- The key vote
Coming to the end of a road almost two-and-a-half years after British voters narrowly decided in 2016 to leave the EU, the Brexit deal reached with the EU will face a vote on Tuesday, bringing the wrenching political saga to the brink of climax.
The vote was originally planned for Dec. 11 but May postponed it for more than a month as she foresaw a heavy defeat in the House.
May needs the support of 320 MPs to have her deal voted through the House of Commons.
The total number of seats in the House is 650.
However, there are only 639 eligible votes as Speaker John Bercow and his three deputies as well as seven Sinn Fein MPs will not cast ballots.
The vote will be held at 7 p.m. local time on Tuesday.