A deadlock in talks in Brussels on a key provision in the EU withdrawal agreement is expected to lead to another defeat for Prime Minister Theresa May when the motion on her Plan B is introduced in the House of Commons on Tuesday.
The agreement was resoundingly voted down in January due to the so-called ‘backstop’ for Ireland-Northern Ireland, which is a fallback option to avoid a hard border between the two if formal trade talks do not result in a deal between the UK and EU.
MPs across the political spectrum believe the ‘backstop’ does not have an end-date and will thus tie the UK indefinitely to EU rules, defeating the result of the 2016 referendum. May promised to secure the required changes and re-introduce the agreement in parliament.
However, despite renewed talks, there has been no progress, fuelling speculation in Westminster that May would withdraw the motion – called the ‘meaningful vote’ – in the face of certain defeat on Tuesday.
On Monday, May was closeted in talks with close aides in Downing Street, while a spokesperson insisted she had no plans to make a last-minute dash to Brussels and dismissed claims that the vote would be withdrawn due to the likelihood of it being voted down again.
Conservative MP Mark Francois reflected the views of many MPs as he declared on Monday: “Nothing has changed since January. It is exactly the same agreement. If you ask the same question, you are likely to get the same answer”.