Sunday 16 June 2019

Q&A: What is Theresa May's new Brexit deal and how does it affect Ireland?

Countdown: Clock is running on Theresa May’s tenure as UK prime minister. Photo: REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
Countdown: Clock is running on Theresa May’s tenure as UK prime minister. Photo: REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

British Prime Minister Theresa May has made the shock move of offering MPs a vote on a second Brexit referendum.

In her latest attempt to get backing for her beleaguered Brexit deal, Mrs May also made a fresh round of political commitments aimed at shoring up cross-party support for the agreement.

Theresa May
Theresa May

 

When is this second referendum taking place?

It may never happen. Mrs May only committed to allowing MPs vote on whether they should have another referendum or not. But it is likely the House of Commons will vote down such a proposal. In a speech today, Mrs May said she was personally against having another referendum but understood some politicians had “genuine and sincere” feelings on the issue.

 

So what else is she offering?

She said she would align UK workers’ rights with those of EU citizen’s post Brexit. She also said she would maintain the same environmental standards as the EU and keep the same regulations on goods and products to ensure trade is not disrupted. She said she will ensure there is near frictionless trade with the EU once the UK leaves the single market but she will end free movement of people.

Theresa May. Photo: PA
Theresa May. Photo: PA

 

How is she addressing her party members’ concerns over the Irish border and the backstop?

The Prime Minister told MPs she would make a legal commitment to completing negotiations on alternatives to the Northern Ireland backstop by December 2020. She also said she would align Northern Ireland and British rules and regulations should the backstop come into force. The EU has insisted a time limit cannot be put on the backstop as it is an insurance policy to ensuring a hard border does not return on the island of Ireland.

 

Did she offer anything else?

She also said the parliament would be able to vote on any future customs union the UK might have with the EU. She also said she would pursue changes to the political declaration which accompanies the Brexit withdrawal deal she agreed with the EU.

 

Will any of this work?

All will depend on how the House of Commons votes next month when he puts the deal to the parliament. However, Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn already said his MPs will be instructed to vote against the Prime Minister’s deal as he believed the new pledges were “repackaging of the same old bad deal”. Hardline Tory Brexiteer Jacob Rees Moog also said the new offer was “unquestionably worse than before”.

 

What does all this mean for Ireland?

Ms May’s new Brexit commitments would not require the Withdrawal Agreement to be renegotiated so the Government and the EU have no issue with what is being proposed. In Dublin, Government officials said they were “watching and studying” what was happening in Britain and were hoping the deal would be passed. However, there is no great expectation that the Prime Minister will convince MPs to back her deal.  In a sign of the pessimism in Government, Tanaiste Simon Coveney told Cabinet members today that the threat of Britain crashing out of the EU is greater than ever.

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