March 12 (UPI) — After a year and-a-half of back and forth wrangling, British lawmakers will vote again Tuesday on Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan to leave the European Union after she secured last-minute changes.
Members of British Parliament are set to debate and vote on the plan later Tuesday. It will be somewhat different from the deal they overwhelmingly rejected in January after May traveled to France Monday to work out changes.
The House of Commons will begin debating Tuesday afternoon and vote on amendments and then the final deal beginning at 7 p.m. in London, or 3 p.m. EDT.
Britain is scheduled to leave the EU on March 29 — with an agreement, if it’s approved, or without a deal. May could also move to delay the exit until June if her deal is rejected again. Parliament could also consider a second national referendum, effectively asking Britons again if they want to leave the 28-member group.
May traveled to Strasbourg Monday to work out changes to the agreement with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. While some tweaks were made, Juncker did not agree to May’s central change, the Ireland backstop — the main issue at the heart of lawmakers’ disapproval. The backstop is an insurance policy that allows a soft border while Ireland remains part of the EU. Juncker also said there would be no reassurances or clarifications from Brussels.
“Let us speak crystal clear about the choice: It is this deal, or Brexit might not happen at all,” Juncker said.
May said, however, the two did address concerns about the backstop becoming permanent. It remains to be seen if the changes are enough to get the deal passed. In January, it was defeated by a margin of 230 votes.
Attorney General for England and Wales Geoffrey Cox, Britain’s chief legal adviser, reviewed the changes to the deal and again said it carries too much risk. His advice in December said the same thing.
“The legal risk remains unchanged,” he wrote Tuesday, noting there are “internationally lawful means” of leaving the backstop without EU agreement. His opinion is expected to have great influence on whether lawmakers vote for or against May’s proposal.
Lawmakers will vote on five different documents to leave the EU and establish the backstop with Ireland and Northern Ireland.
May’s plan also establishes a framework for Britain’s trade deals. Leaving the alliance without any trade agreements, some experts worry it could lead to food shortages and other trade-related chaos. Several companies with bases of operation in Britain have indicated for months they could relocate.
Nissan has canceled plans to build its X-Trail sport-utility vehicle in Sunderland, Britain. Last month, Honda said it would close a plant in Swindon, about 80 miles west of London, by 2021. The plant, where Civic hatchbacks are built, employs 3,500 people and a number of suppliers and subsidiaries. Others including BMW and Land Rover have also indicated they could relocate.
Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said May’s “negotiations have failed” and called on lawmakers to reject the deal.
“[The new deal] does not contain anything approaching the changes Theresa May promised parliament, and whipped her MPs to vote for,” Corbyn said. “Since her Brexit deal was so overwhelmingly rejected, the prime minister has recklessly run down the clock, failed to effectively negotiate with the EU and refused to find common ground for a deal parliament could support.”
Brexit supporter Richard Tice called it the “worst deal in history.”
“The prime minister is conning us all,” said the lawmaker, who is vice-chairman of the Leave Means Leave campaign. “This agreement still means Northern Ireland would be treated differently to the rest of the U.K.”
Former Attorney General Dominic Grieve also said he will vote against May’s deal.
“The proper thing to do is to put it back to the public in a people’s vote, in a second referendum,” Grieve told BBC News Tuesday.