Corbyn amendment defeated as MPs vote on Brexit Plan B

Hilary Benn

Hilary Benn

Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney said the backstop arrangement remained "necessary" despite the votes in the Commons.

However, various EU leaders have suggested there will be no revisions to the deal, with European Council President Donald Tusk saying: "The backstop is part of the withdrawal agreement, and the withdrawal agreement is not open for renegotiation".

The pound has dropped sharply after two key amendments aimed at preventing a no-deal Brexit were voted down by MPs in the Commons.

Mrs May called for MPs to back senior Tory Graham Brady's amendment to replace the Irish backstop so she can get her deal through the Commons.

Tuesday's votes were triggered by the overwhelming defeat of Mrs May's Brexit Plan A by 230 votes earlier this month.

Dr Fox gave a cool reception to a compromise deal put forward by housing minister Kit Malthouse which has won the support of the Democratic Unionist Party.

Mrs May said she would seek "legally binding changes to the Withdrawal Agreement that deal with concerns on the backstop while guaranteeing no return to a hard border".

In a series of votes on Brexit, MPs have called for a renegotiation of the Northern Ireland backstop, a measure which had the support of Theresa May's government. The Prime Minister vowed to redouble her efforts and return to Brussels armed with the result to demand changes to the controversial Irish border backstop.

But asked about the Malthouse plan, Dr Fox said only: "There are all sorts of ideas being put out, but Parliament can not take a decision unless it is on the order paper and it is not on the order paper".

The deputy chairman of the pro-Leave European Research Group, Tory MP Steve Baker, said he hoped by the group giving its support to the amendment, MPs could "now make rapid progress towards the Malthouse compromise".

"If the Brady amendment is a Government amendment, effectively, that means the Withdrawal Agreement will be reopened", Mr Rees-Mogg told the BBC. "That's very different from a worthy backbench motion that doesn't do anything".

It courts Brexiteers with a promise to ditch an unpopular Irish border policy in favour of an alternative, and appeals to remain-supporting Conservatives by pledging safeguards against the risk of disruption if no deal can be agreed with the EU. "But in contrast to a fortnight ago, this House has made it clear what it needs to approve a withdrawal agreement". "We can't have some codicil or letter or joint declaration".

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Both the European Union and the Irish government have been adamant that there can be no question of reopening the Withdrawal Agreement.

He said: "We stand by Ireland".

But Dr Fox said he believed attitudes on the European Union side on the need to find a compromise were changing in the light of the growing economic uncertainty.

And she told MPs: "If this House can come together, we can deliver the decision the British people took in June 2016, restore faith in our democracy and get on with building a country that works for everyone. I think we still have time to reach a compromise on that".

Prime Minister Theresa May addressing the House of Commons.

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"I think we should send the Prime Minister back to Brussels with a strong mandate to be able to say "If you compromise with us on this one issue, on the backstop, we would be able to a get an agreement - an agreement that is nearly there", he said.

May has not yet commented on the Malthouse plan.

"The Prime Minister has been aware of the discussions".

Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier's deputy Sabine Weyand warned there was a "high risk" of the United Kingdom crashing out by accident, as it was "quite a challenge" to see how a majority could be constructed at Westminster.

Mr Corbyn said: "Tonight Parliament has voted to remove the immediate threat of crashing out without a deal on 29 March". We have to look for ways to do that.

But the SNP's Ian Blackford sparked uproar in the chamber when he claimed the Tories had "ripped up the Good Friday Agreement" that has kept the peace in Northern Ireland for decades.

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